But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.
“For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.
“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel …”— Acts 2:14-16
And Peter goes on to deliver the first Evangelical sermon, describing the prophecies that point to Jesus as the Messiah and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which those who witnessed the commotion in the upper room had written off as drunkenness), and “with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying ‘be saved from this perverse generation’.” (Acts 2:40)
And 3,000 people came to Christ in that moment.
But as you read Peter’s sermon, you may notice something missing, and I believe that is the key to the sermon’s success. He doesn’t mention sin.
He doesn’t accuse people of being bad and hellbound: he declares the Good News that the Messiah, the One who had been promised for generations, has come, conquered death, and enabled all people to come closer to God.
Yes, he refers to “lawless hands” and the unjust crucifixion of Christ, but he tempers that by saying that Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23) — in other words, that everything that happened was according to God’s plan all along, and the people involved were only playing their part.
He also calls on people to “be saved from this perverse generation” — but he doesn’t dwell on how the generation is perverse or whether the people he’s speaking to are necessarily part of it.
Instead, Peter exhorts them: he encourages them with the news of the love God has for His people. He says, in effect, “Come on! I have seen the Lord! Let’s follow Him out of the darkness!” (Much as Peter’s brother, Andrew, said to him at the beginning of their walk with Jesus (John 1:41).)
And that evangelizing worked. Three thousand people that one day; more, as the days went on. Paul brought others to Christ by pointing them towards God — consider his speech at Areopagus (Mars Hill), where he helped them to know the “unknown God” — rather than pointing them at themselves and their sin.
That needs to be our focus as we talk to our NBFs* today: a better way – the only way – and that any troubles we have in our lives can be resolved by turning to God through Jesus Christ. Admittedly, there are challenges, especially when it comes to intimating that sin is a root cause of our problems. People do get their backs up when it’s suggested they might be responsible for things going wrong in their lives.
But that’s where testimony comes in. Even if you just say, “I realized that my troubles came from being disobedient to God,” and that by turning to Him, strength and solutions started to come, you put your own personal stamp on the message. No one can argue with your experience.
Nor can anyone argue with this, which is probably the greatest evangelical message of all:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”— Matthew 11:28-30
Even as we compile an “end-times checklist“, looking at the various things happening that fit in with what’s supposed to happen just before Jesus returns, there is some good news. Our prayers for rain in Australia have been answered! There’s more on the way for the weekend in New South Wales and Queensland, and that should give the firies (firefighters) some respite. We need to keep focusing our prayers on the people who’ve lost their homes and for the animals who’ve suffered in the fires, and certainly, we can’t say, “Thanks, God – we’ll take it from here!” As with any instance where He has pulled us out of a disaster, we need to take it as a reminder to keep drawing closer to Him. That’s especially true in the immediate recovery period, when rebuilding one’s life is more than one can handle with one’s own strength.
One of the latest additions to that checklist is the report of a mysterious new virus in China. As of last night’s news, there had been nine deaths and 400 cases. In a country of – what – 1.5 billion people, does that constitute an “outbreak”? Certainly, the news media say so, but here’s the thing to note: the fear of an outbreak can be destructive, too. Keep focused on God, and hold onto the faith in His ability to keep us healthy!