IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Turn to the Lord

Date: Feb. 23, 2014

Author: Michael Mark

Acts 9:32-43

Key Verse: Acts 9:34-35

“‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.’ Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”

On an innate level everyone wants to be a better person. One thing I used to hear when non-believing couples were dating was, “He/she makes me a better person.” Some people strive to be good on their own, joining social or charitable causes. Others will turn to different religions, in order to try to be a better person. All of us want to be good, and live a life of good deeds. Who or what do you turn to in order to become better? Who or what do your friends/family turn to to become better? What we will learn today is that all of our efforts will ultimately fail by our own strength. All of our efforts will fail if we do not turn to the Lord. That’s because in the midst of all our good works throughout all of our lives, comes once in a while that evil thought or that hurtful word. When we stand before God at the end of our days, can we say to him, you must let me into heaven because I gave hundreds of dollars to charity? Can we say, I deserve eternal life, because I went to church three times a day every Sunday? God will say, you think you deserve heaven? Have you lived perfectly? And no one can answer yes. What we will learn is that we are paralyzed, incapable of doing good deeds: but the Lord came to heal. He came to restore us, so that we can do good things. Only in Christ are we made into better people. But this isn’t about health or wealth – this is about goodness and righteousness, which we can only receive by turning to the Lord. In no one, no thing, and no where else can you find goodness and righteousness, except in the Lord Jesus Christ – who will give you that, and life.

We have come to a turning point in our study of the book of Acts. The book of Acts began with the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, giving his disciples this commission: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)” The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost in Jerusalem, and the disciples began to declare the wonders of God in languages they never studied. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, preached to a crowd in Jerusalem, and 3,000 people became believers in Christ. Day after day the number of disciples were increasing, until after some time a great persecution broke out against the church, and all of the believers except the apostles scattered. Soon afterwards news came to the apostles that the Samaritans accepted the word of God, and Peter and John were sent to witness what was happening. The gospel was being preached in Judea and Samaria. In this chapter, chapter 9, we are seeing a new stage of the church beginning to take place. Saul, the most violent persecutor of the Christians, has been converted, and God will prepare him to become an apostle to the Gentiles. Meanwhile, Peter is travelling about ministering in the Judean countryside, where soon he will witness the gospel opening up to the Gentiles – reaching out to the ends of the earth.

Look at v.32, “As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda.” Lydda was about 25 miles west of Jerusalem. People used to go to Jerusalem and bring their sick and those tormented by evil spirits to the apostles (Acts 5:16), but now the reverse is taking place – Peter is going outside of Jerusalem to see the Lord’s people. Here you can see Peter’s heart for the church. He was an apostle, one of the pillars of the Christian faith, and he is going out to support, encourage and minister to other believers. In Lydda, Peter found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. It’s not clear how old Aeneas was. The Bible doesn’t say that he was born paralyzed, but he was in that condition and bedridden for eight years. That’s still a very long time! For eight years he could not walk, he could not feed himself, wash himself, or go to the washroom by himself. He couldn’t help anyone, and he was dependent on others to help him with everything. It would also seem that after eight years of being paralyzed, it was clear to everyone in the town, and even to Aeneas himself, that any chance of recovery or being healed was gone. Some people may have even thought he was cursed by God, thinking maybe he was being punished for some sin he committed.

Spiritually, we are very much like Aeneas – we are paralyzed, bedridden and helpless. But we are not this way because we are being punished for our sins, we are this way because we were born this way. All of us are born sinners, incapable of following or obeying the laws and commands of God. If you break the law of the land, you are a violator and criminal of that land. For example, if you park in front of a fire hydrant, you are in violation of a parking law and you will be forced to pay a fine. You are in violation of a law of the city of Chicago. God’s laws are summed up into these two commands: Love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Have you ever been jealous, or envious of what your neighbor, your friend or relative owns? Then you have violated God’s law. Have you had times where you did not love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind? You have violated God’s law. In fact, none of us can keep these laws every day, and all of us in our hearts know there are times where we do not love God with everything we have. We find that command very hard and very demanding, but we are powerless to do anything about it. We are paralyzed, completely – because not only are we unable to love God, but we are unable to love our neighbor. Maybe sometimes we do, but can we all the time? Not a chance. Jesus says this to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:17, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.’” Why are we weak, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked? Because we are born in sin, we are born as slaves to sin. We cannot do anything good, because even in the good deeds we do, they are corrupted, sometimes with pride, sometimes with selfishness. When we examine ourselves in the light of God’s law: his law to love Him and love our neighbors, we find that we violate these laws every single day, but we are helpless to do anything about it. We are helpless to do good, according to the perfect standard of God’s law. We are sinners in the sight of God.

But listen to what Peter says in v.34: “ ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.’ Immediately Aeneas got up.” What did Peter say? He said, “Jesus Christ heals you.” Jesus Christ heals you. He directed Aeneas’ attention to Jesus Christ. Peter did not say, “Aeneas, I heal you,” or “Aeneas, go heal yourself,” he said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.” What was Aeneas’ response? Did he laugh at Peter and say, “ha! Yeah right, I’ve been like this for eight years!” No – immediately, Aeneas got up. Immediately. He believed, and he believed in these words: Jesus Christ heals you. He was able to get up. He was no longer paralyzed. He was able to roll up his mat. Perhaps he took that mat with him, everywhere he went, as a reminder that he no longer has to sleep in it. He may have taken that mat with him, so that he could show people and tell them, “Jesus Christ healed me!”

Of course, Aeneas was healed in more than just his physical body, more importantly he was healed in his soul. Let’s look at a similar story from Mark 2. This was during the time Jesus was here on earth. He was preaching to a great crowd at Capernaum, in the northern part of the country, and some men came and brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. Since there was such a large crowd, they could not get through, so they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and lowered him on the mat he was lying on. Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The teachers of the law thought he was blaspheming, but Jesus knew what was in their hearts and said, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” It sounds like a trick question – which is harder – to heal a paralytic with a word, or to forgive sins. To me, they both sound impossible, but with his word, Jesus healed the paralytic, and demonstrated that he also has the authority to forgive sins.

And that’s how Jesus Christ heals – he forgives us of our sins. We are helpless to do any good. We are flagrant violators of God’s law, and we are sinners in the sight of God. Just as we are required to pay a fine for a parking violation, we are required to pay a price for our violations against God’s law. That price is death, because sin has ruined and corrupted our lives, causing us to be vile and wicked against a holy and just God. The payment God requires for our atonement is a perfect life. But who could offer up a perfect life – for the atonement of your sins, for the atonement of other’s sins? Could you give God your life? Did you live perfectly? Will he accept it as payment? There was one time when I paid for dinner for my family, and my brother offered me a used Dunkin Donuts card to help with the expenses. Although it was a joke, imagine if he took that Dunkin Donuts card to the cashier. She would cut that card up in front of his face. So what can we offer to God to have our sins forgiven? Now there was a perfect life that he could take, and it was the life of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life here on earth – he lived without sin and obeyed all the Laws of God – so that he might offer it up as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. Jesus Christ, and Christ alone, went to the cross to die and give his perfect life for sinners. God was satisfied with his sacrifice and accepted as payment for our sins: so all your debt is paid in Jesus Christ, all your debt is paid in full – and so all of your sins are forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. So which is harder – to heal a paralyzed man or to forgive sins?   To heal a paralytic, Jesus just has to say the word. To forgive sins, Jesus had to die on the cross. It may be remarkable that Jesus can heal a paralytic, but it is even more amazing that Jesus can forgive our sins. And when I said all of your sins, I mean all of them.

So how might we obtain this healing? How might we obtain this so great a salvation, and so great a sacrifice? It is received by turning to the Lord, believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our Lord and our Savior. Once you did not know the Lord. Once you did not trust in the Lord. Once you did not know that you are a sinner. But now you know. Now you know that God exists. Now you know that you are a sinner. Now you know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and has the authority to forgive sins. So turn to him, and trust in him for the forgiveness of all your sins. Look at v.35, “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Lydda and Sharon spanned a large plain next to the Mediterranean Sea, about 50 miles long and 15-20 miles wide – it was a pretty large area. In the span of eight years, there might have been many in the region who knew that Aeneas was a paralytic – and now they saw him walking about, with his mat. They must have thought, “Surely, this is the power of God.” I’m also sure Aeneas would have testified about the great healer – Jesus Christ – and so when the people saw him, they turned to the Lord. Turn to the Lord, for the healing of your soul.

When Aeneas’ paralysis was healed, Peter told him to get up and roll up his mat. Aeneas was no longer paralyzed. He could use his legs to get up and his arms to roll his mat. He is now able to do good deeds, by the power Christ gave him. As mentioned just a minute ago, Aeneas may have had a great contribution in turning many people to the Lord. Likewise, when we are healed through faith in Christ, then we can truly do good deeds. When we have been reconciled with God, he gives us his Holy Spirit, and gives us power to overcome sin, because he has freed us from sin, and the ability to bear good fruit – fruit that will last. When we have turned to Christ, we can turn others to Christ by doing good deeds. Jesus Christ will equip us for good works (Heb 13:21). Believers in the Lord are fruit that will last, because they are lives that will live for eternity. Titus 2:14 says “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:5,8: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Remember that apart from Christ, we can do nothing – but in Christ, healed of our paralysis and forgiven of our sins, we become strengthened and equipped to bear fruit, and show ourselves to be disciples of Christ.

I want to make something clear, because I think it’s important. We must believe the gospel fully before we should do good works. I do not want to put anyone under the bondage of the law. We have learned that in the flesh we cannot fulfill God’s law. As an example, there was a heated argument in the early church that new Christians must be circumcised, otherwise they cannot be considered Christians. The gospel says that Jesus paid it all – God’s grace is sufficient, so we must not take the attitude that we need to add to what Christ has done. We cannot take the attitude that if I pray a little more, and read the Bible every day, go to every meeting, God will give me a little more grace. Or if I don’t have 1 one-to-one disciple, or I didn’t go evangelizing, or I watched an extra hour of TV this week then God is not pleased with me. We can never meet the demands of the Law – it was designed to show us we deserve death for our sins. So what can we do? Put all our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and his righteousness, that our sins are not counted against us in Christ. Acknowledge our utter sinfulness and turn to Christ, and then we may bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8). Rom 6:14 says, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” We do not continue a life of sin, because Christ has died for our sins. He has freed us from the bondage of sin and lawlessness. He also fulfilled the law (love God, love your neighbor), perfectly for us: so we look to him for righteousness, not to ourselves and our deeds.

So then, we live under grace. Jesus has fulfilled the law for us – so we look to him for righteousness before God. Yet we are also free from the bondage of sin, so we don’t go on sinning, but joyfully endeavor to love and to serve God in light of his mercy and his promise of his Holy Spirit within us. We are given the promise and privilege to pray and come to the Lord with our requests. We don’t pray and read the Bible to earn God’s favor, rather, we pray and we read the Bible because out of love and thankfulness to God for his great mercy. Fear no longer compels us, but love. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” In view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves. God has healed our paralysis. We trust in him fully for salvation, but it does not mean to do nothing afterwards, because he has given us power to do good deeds. We don’t do good deeds to improve our righteousness or standing before God, but we do good deeds with the promise of reward in heaven.

Let’s now take a look at a wonderful example of a disciple of Christ, Tabitha, also called Dorcas – in v.36, “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.” First of all, notice that she is called a disciple. She is a student of Jesus Christ and grows in the knowledge of God, most likely through the study of the apostle’s teachings. In other words, she is a student and devoted to the word of God. And as Jesus said, in bearing much fruit, she shows herself to be a disciple. She was always doing good and helping the poor. Always doing good. Did she become perfect? I don’t think we might say that if she is still in this body here on earth, but there has definitely been a change in her lifestyle. Also, in Christ, God has not counted her sins against her. In the past, she may have been living in sin or unbelief, as we all have, but now, the pattern of her life has been devoted to helping the poor and widows. In v.39 we see how the widows really loved her, and gave evidence of the things she has done for them.

The Bible says much about taking care of the poor and widows. James 1:27 say, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. In Gal 2:10, Paul writes about his meeting with the other apostles Peter, James and John and says, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” It seems these days widows may be able to take care of themselves (with our many social services), unlike the times in the Bible when they were almost helpless and overlooked – still it would be good to take care of them. We still have the poor with us, and we will always have the poor with us, but we see here that God takes care of those who are helpless through his people. We don’t have to limit it to poor and widows, but in general as God’s people let us keep it in mind to help and to serve others for God’s glory: that they may praise God for the help he has provided.

Now something tragic happened to Dorcas – look at v.37-38: “About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Dorcas had really died. It was an established and known fact – because if she was just sleeping, washing her body would have woken her up. But her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room – it was ready for burial. At around that time, the disciples in Joppa heard that Peter was in Lydda. They might have heard the news that he healed Aeneas, and sent for him. Joppa was about 8 miles from Lydda, so perhaps just a couple hour’s walk. There is no evidence to suggest that they expected Peter to revive Dorcas – but as an established leader of the church, perhaps they wanted to honor Dorcas with a visit from Peter. Or they might have wanted to seek his guidance and direction, or help with the great ministry that Dorcas was carrying on.

Peter went with the men to Joppa, and arrived at the upstairs room. See what he does next in v.40: “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up.” Peter first sent the widows and anyone else who was with them out of the room, then he got down on his knees and prayed. This was different from the situation with Aeneas. With Aeneas he was very direct, and said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.” Here, Peter takes the time to pray. Here, we see he is relying on wisdom from God. He did not plan on coming here, and he did not presume he had supernatural healing powers. He wasn’t sure what would happen, but he loved and cared for these people, and he knows they lost a great coworker in Christ. So he sent them out of the room so he could pray. Either he did not want to be distracted, or he wanted to pray with such fervency that he did not want them to witness. He made a good environment for prayer by removing all possible distractions. Then the Holy Spirit moved him. He said, “Tabitha, get up,” and she opened her eyes. This was not Peter’s power, but it was the power and words of Christ spoken through Peter that commanded the life to come back to Tabitha. Notice also, that there was no part Tabitha could play in her resurrection. She was dead, she could not hear. But Christ commanded her to get up, and she got up. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Not only does he have the authority to forgive sins, but he has the authority to give life and to take it away.

Look at v.41-42, “He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.” Peter presented her alive, probably because they would all get scared if she walked out there by herself (joking). Peter presented her alive to confirm that a miracle had happened, and that he witnessed it, and it would also continue to solidify Peter as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The miracles confirm Peter’s authority as an apostle. Word of this spread, and it became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. This was the ultimate goal and purpose of the miracle. It wasn’t to simply heal Dorcas and extend her ministry at Joppa. It wasn’t entirely for the widows and the poor she served. The ultimate goal was for the glory of God, so that many people would believe. They would believe that Jesus is the author of life. They would believe that Jesus is the Lord, and put their faith and trust in him as their Lord and Savior.

Like Tabitha, we too were once dead in our sins. Eph 2:1 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” In our sins we are like dead people. Have you ever tried to talk to a dead person, or touch them? They cannot hear, they cannot see, they cannot move and they cannot feel anything. Likewise when we are dead, we do not feel the guilt and weight of our sins. We do not feel the wrath of God that is upon sinners who violate his law and do injustice to others. We cannot understand what the Scriptures have to say and we are ignorant of God: who has created the heavens and the earth and all life on earth. Like Tabitha, we have no power in us to go to God ourselves; so it is God who comes to us. It is God alone who gives us life. It is God alone who saves us. It is God who worked the miracles so that people may turn to him and believe. It is God who convicts us of our sins, and offers his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. It is God who gives us the Holy Spirit, and helps us to discern him, to hear his voice and to understand his Word. We were born dead in sins and trespasses. Jesus Christ will give you life. This is what Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The knowledge of God and his Son Jesus Christ is eternal life. God made himself known through these miracles. John writes in John 20:31: “But these [miracles, signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Now our response should be to turn to God and believe.

Believe in the finished work of Christ. The finished work of Christ. These words really moved Hudson Taylor, who became one of the greatest missionaries to China. He had struggled to live a good Christian life, but always came to despair when he kept falling short. He meditated on these words, “the finished work of Christ,” and came to the heart of the gospel: faith in the finished work of Christ:

“What was finished?” he questioned; and thus he answered, “A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin; the debt was paid by the Substitute; Christ died for our sins, ‘and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’ Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’     ……And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees, and, accepting this Savior and His salvation, to praise Him forevermore.”

Hudson Taylor did not turn to his works, or to anything else – but he turned to Jesus Christ for his salvation. Turn to Christ, and believe in his finished work on the cross. As you also know, Hudson Taylor was one of the most fruitful and prominent missionaries to China, suffering much and laboring until the end of his life for the Lord in China. Believing in Christ for the forgiveness of all his sin, the payment of all his debt – he was able to get up and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. He received life, true life, and eternal life and offered himself to help the sick and preach the gospel in China, turning many people to Jesus Christ, with each saved soul giving God the Father all glory, honor and praise.

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