You're at home, making a cup of tea in your kitchen. Picture yourself there. Then there's a knock on your door. You open your door to discover someone from the bomb squad. The soldier says, "We've discovered an unexploded bomb from World War Two on your street, with a blast zone of two hundred metres." So you you say, "What should I do?" The soldier says you have a choice: "You can stay but your life is in danger. Or, we'll evacuate you to safety while we dispose of the bomb."
That actually happened to people living in Temple Street, Bethnal Green, East London last year. 150 people chose to take the army's offer of rescue. It was news that demanded a response.
Some news doesn't affect us, it's about people we'll never meet and places we'll never go. But some news affects us, and demands a response. What we've been hearing over Easter about Jesus is like the unexploded bomb. It's news that demands a response. It's the difference between judgment or rescue.
Why? Let's think back to that very first Easter. On the Friday, Jesus died on the cross for our sin. On the first Easter Sunday Jesus was raised back to life. Luke records the risen Jesus meeting the shocked disciples. Luke 24:46 records Jesus telling the disciples God's plan:
"This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
The plan is for the news of forgiveness to be preached all over the world. For this to happen God would send his Spirit to clothe the disciples with power. At the start of Acts 2 we see the promised Spirit come upon the disciples. There's sound like a violent wind. There appears to be tongues of fire resting on the disciples. As they are filled with the Spirit, the disciples speak about Jesus in "tongues", or different languages.
At the time there was a festival in Jerusalem. There were many Jews gathered from all over the Mediterranean. Yet they all heard the disciples speak about Jesus in their own language. Something weird is happening. They are amazed and perplexed. They rightly ask in verse 12, "What does this mean?"
Peter, one of the Apostles, explains to them what it means. He says Jesus' death, resurrection and coming of the Spirit show Jesus is Lord and Messiah. The pouring out of the Spirit is proof that Jesus is Lord, he is able to offer rebels forgiveness. He's the one who will fulfill God's promised world we all want. It's news that demands a response. So the crowd say, "What shall we do?" It's a question you might well be asking this Easter. This morning we're going to listen in to Peter's answer.
My first point is this: Turn from rebellion. Look with me at the first three words in verse 38:
" Peter replied, "Repent"
Peter tells the crowd they must repent. To repent means to stop going 'my way' and start going Jesus' way in life. By nature we say, "No God, I don't want to go your way. I'm gonna go my way!" Think of the times you push God out of the picture, and put yourself centre. God says don't lie. We say, "A little white lie won't hurt!" God says love each other. We say, "I feel better after a bit of gossip." God says to look at someone lustfully is to commit adultery of the heart. We say, "Well, I just don't know about that!" Jesus is Lord. He is the rightful boss of our lives. To keep living 'my way' is nothing but total rebellion against Jesus. It is totally offensive.
A while ago I went for a swim. I was sharing a lane with another woman. A few times we nearly collided. After one near miss the woman stopped swimming. She stood up in the pool and pointed at the sign. "It's anti clockwise! You're swimming in the wrong direction!" I duly changed my lane, and fell in behind her!
I was swimming in the wrong direction because of my ignorance. It caused the woman's anger. But, in our rebellion, we choose to go 'my way'. We willfully ignore Jesus' right to rule. And it will lead to an extraordinary collision. One in which we will lose. Because God is totally angry at our rebellion.
So if you're not yet following Jesus, Peter says turn from rebellion. Change your lane, and follow Jesus. Stop treating Jesus like he's just a nice teacher, or irrelevant. Jesus is the most relevant person you'll ever meet.
Why is that? He's the most loving person you'll ever meet. Jesus died for you on the cross. He rose to life for you. He wants the very best for you. Jesus is the rightful ruler of your life. It means letting him call the shots in how your treat your family, your friends, your work, your money, your ambitions. If you're following Jesus already, turning from rebellion is something we need to do everyday. Remind yourself everyday: 'I'm not the boss of me, Jesus is!'
You might be thinking following Jesus feels like giving up your freedom. But freedom isn't the total lack of restrictions. It's finding the right liberating restrictions that bring true life. Think about a musician who gives up his time to practice everyday so he can truly move people with his music, and provide for his family. The right restrictions bring the musician true freedom. Submitting to the right rule of Jesus brings true freedom: freedom from living for self; freedom to live for the king who loves you so much he died for you.
Peter says turn from rebellion. My second point is Trust in Jesus for forgiveness. Look with me again at verse 38:
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
It sounds complicated but Peter is saying we need to trust Jesus for forgiveness. We've all rebelled against God. We've all 'gone my way'. We make a mess of our world. Worse still, we bring God's judgment on ourselves. We're in desperate need of forgiveness. Only Jesus can offer forgiveness. Because only Jesus died for sin on the cross. Just as we transfer shopping from your Asda trolley to the car boot, on the cross God transfers his anger from us onto Jesus. Because of the cross we can be forgiven.
So why does Peter say be baptized in Jesus name? At baptism people are splashed with or dunked in water. It's a picture of the forgiveness God gives when we trust in Jesus.
Think of it like this. Here's a dirty dinner plate. The water washes away the dirt. Baptism is a picture of how God promises to wash away our record of sin and rebellion through Jesus' death. Let me say this though. Being baptized doesn't make you a follower of Jesus. You become a follower of Jesus by turning from sin and trusting in Jesus. Baptism is only a picture of the forgiveness God promises if we trust in Jesus.
5 and a half years ago I got married. My wife and I exchanged promises to each other. And as a sign of those promises we exchanged rings. The promises were the thing that made us husband and wife. The rings are just a sign of that. Likewise, trusting in God's promises makes us forgiven. Baptism is a just sign of that forgiveness he promises.
For Peter's audience being baptized would be to admit they were rebels. To be baptized was to admit only Jesus could wash away their sins. It was a big deal. Just as it today.
So if you're not following Jesus this morning, will you admit you're a rebel in need of forgiveness? Will you admit that only Jesus can save your from God's anger?
Baptism was also a big deal because it was to go public. It was to out yourself as a follower of Jesus amongst your friends and family. Just like then, to following Jesus, isn't easy. There's a cost. To admit to following Jesus means you'll be going against the crowd at times. People will say, "Why don't you just get drunk?" at the family do. "Why don't you fiddle your expenses?" at work. "Why do you keep sex for marriage?" "You follow Jesus. Why do that?" It might be that your friends and family just don't get it. You get stick for Jesus. You get excluded for Jesus. So it's worth asking – is it worth it?
YES! Just look at what God promises if we turn from rebellion and trust in Jesus. Lets think about what happens when we take hold of God's promises. This leads to my final point: Take hold of God's promises. Let's look again at verse 38. Keep your eye out for God's promises:
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
Firstly, God promises forgiveness if we trust in Jesus' name. Remember how the cross is a transfer of punishment. But the cross is also a transfer of status. On the cross Jesus was treated as a rebel by God, so we can be treated as right with God. Instead of war, with God, there is peace. The fear of judgment is gone, and replaced with the joy of forgiveness.
Secondly, Peter says followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn't leave us alone to follow him. No, he sends his Spirit to come live in us. What does that look like? When I first followed Jesus, during my first year at university, my sense of fear of judgment was replaced by one of joy of forgiveness. I've certainly struggled at times but I've always been aware of Jesus' forgiveness.
The Spirit also changes your desires. I have a friend called Chris. He started following Jesus in his early twenties. There's never been a Christian in his family. If you met him before he trusted in Jesus, and met him again today you might well ask, "What's gotten into him?" Well, the simple answer is the Holy Spirit. Who enabled Chris to keep following Jesus when he was back at home and it was hard? The Holy Spirit. Who enables Chris to turning from rebellion everyday? The Holy Spirit. If you trust in Jesus, the same Spirit will come to live in you. He will help you keep turning and trusting.
Thirdly, God saves us from a corrupt world into his new people. In verse 41 it says "three thousand were added to their number that day." That is 3000 people trusted in Jesus, and were added to the number of God's people, the church. When you trust in Jesus you are gathered into the church. One day you live in the world we all want with Jesus forever. Revelation 21:4 gives us a glorious picture of heaven. It says, "He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes." How many people have wiped tears from your eyes? I bet not many because it's a very intimate thing. One day God himself will come close enough to wipe every single tear from your eye. So is it worth following Jesus? YES.
Now look with me at the start of verse 41:
"Those who accepted his message were baptized"
Remember how we said this was news that demands a response? Peter says to receive forgiveness you must turn from your rebellion and trust in Jesus. We see the crowd respond. Some reject it. Some accept Peter's message by turning from rebellion and trusting in Jesus. Just like those people living in Temple Street, it was news that demanded a response. They either stayed in danger, or accepted rescue. That's the option we face too.
Some of you may be following Jesus already. In which case, keep turning from rebellion, and praise God – you have received forgiveness and the Holy Spirit!
Some of you may have just started thinking about Jesus. In which case I'd say keep asking questions. Keep coming on Sundays. Find out more by coming to Christianity Explored or by reading the Bible with a friend. But don't take forever. Because Jesus won't wait forever. But Jesus will definitely come back. And he'll meet us as either our judge or rescuer.
Some of you may be here thinking. "I'm ready to admit I need to turn from rebellion. I see my need of Jesus." If that is you all you need to do is accept the message of Jesus, just like 3000 members of that crowd did many years ago. You can do that by speaking in prayer to God, saying you trust in his promises.
It can be as simple as saying, "Father, I'm sorry I've rebelled against you. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. By your Holy Spirit, help me to turn from rebellion, by living for Jesus and trusting in his forgiveness. Amen."
Where ever we stand, the response Peter calls for is to turn from rebellion, trust in Jesus and take hold of God's promises. So I'm going to leave sometime for us all to reflect or pray in silence before we close with our final hymn…
If you've prayed that trust in Jesus prayer for the very first time, then know God has forgiven you. Let me encourage you to 'Go public.' I would love to hear your news, and help you as you start your new life following Jesus.