Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

02/14/16 Sermon - Rise Up and Walk

“Rise Up and Walk”

Acts 3

 

Before we look at Acts chapter 3, I want to go back to the end of chapter 2 and re-read what things were like for those in the  first Christian church. At the end of chapter 2 it reads,

41-42 That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”

Did you catch all that? Those in the early church were committed:

-       to the teaching of the apostles

-       their life together

-       the common meal

-       and prayer

There was a daily discipline that went like this:

-       go to the Temple and worship

-       followed by meals at home

 

 

 

Throughout those days it said that everyone was in awe by all the wonders and signs done by the apostles. All the believers lived in wonderful harmony, holding everything in common, each person’s needs were met.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

For many who were there we are told the people generally liked what they saw and God added people to their congregation on a daily basis.

Which brings us to today’s Scripture. Peter and Johns day was going along just like every other day. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, and like usual, the apostles were off to the Temple to a prayer meeting, before they were to head home to eat and celebrate with the others. Peter and John were walking together through the same gate they have walked every day before this day. At the same time, a crippled man, from birth, was being carried up, and set down at the same Temple gate, called Beautiful, where Peter and John were walking through. This crippled man was also going through his regular daily routine, he sat at that gate every day. This was his only way of making any money to assist his family in feeding him and taking care of him. I am going to assume that this was not the first time Peter and John have passed by this crippled man. We’ve been told the apostles made it a ritual to go to the Temple daily for prayer. We are also told this crippled man was brought here daily. We read that the crippled man sees Peter and John enter through the gate and he asked for a handout.

This motion had become part of his muscle memory. Someone walks through the gate and automatically his muscles move for him to present his cup for a handout. He had performed this motion hundreds of times, daily. Head down, eyes not focused on who it was, just that someone was there.

However, this was the first time perhaps Peter and John personally address this man and Peter asks the man to look him “straight in the eye”. Beggars were everywhere, and most of the time people did their best to avert their eyes from looking at them, and the beggar does the same, because if their eyes meet, they would have to admit the beggar was a person.

As soon as we look into someone’s eyes we are faced with the fact that they are part of the human race, which then places us in a dilemma because we will have to admit we have beggars in the same group as we are.

Peter and John don’t have a penny to their name, but they do have something better, they have hope, they have healing, they have renewal. So Peter takes the crippled man by the hand and says,

“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

In an instant the man’s ankles are healed, he jumps up and follows Peter and John into the Temple. This was the first time in his life he had been able, or even allowed to enter the Temple. He’s ecstatic! Can’t you see it?

Peter and John continue to walk to their prayer meeting, at Solomon’s Porch and they have this beggar man, stinky, poorly dressed, shaggy hair, throwing his arms around him and dancing around them, creating quite a stir.

The others who were in the Temple at the time recognize the crippled man, and they are rubbing their eyes in astonishment, they can’t believe it. Crippled people in the first century died crippled. There were no hospitals, nursing homes or places for them to be taken care of. They lived on the streets and if they were lucky enough to have anyone who cared for them, they were carried to and from the place they had staked out for begging. Now here was this well-known beggar jumping around Peter and John and praising God.

Like any good preacher, Peter seizes the moment. Here was a congregation forming and they were ready to hear the good news. He began by reminding them that God was the one with the power to heal. This powerful healing God was the same God of their ancestors, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their God, had glorified his Son Jesus through the actions of those Jewish leaders in charge. But the wonderment of it all was that the Jewish leaders didn’t have a clue what they were really doing, yet God had a plan all along. The Messiah had come and had been treated exactly how God had foretold it through his prophets in the Old Testament. Peter reminded them that all the prophets from Moses to Samuel and on down, said the same thing,

By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ But you are first in line: God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways.”

That prophecy continues today. Let me read it again.

By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ But you are first in line: God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways.”

The book of Acts has been a great book for us to be studying during our time of Lent as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. The Kingdom is here, and the first church demonstrated what God’s kingdom on earth should really look like:

The renewal of life.

Those in the first church, spent their days living and proclaiming that God was in the process of fulfilling His promise to restore all things, through Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ had done His part and for those who experienced it, the Holy Spirit was making that good news become a reality. They believed and experienced a new life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are a couple of things I think we should be taking away from today’s Scripture and checking to see if they are a vital part of how we live today.

One of the important things I’ve noticed in the book of Acts so far, is the witness of the apostles and those in the first church was effective because they combined their message with their life.

They didn’t just preach Jesus, as resurrected, and good news, they lived out renewal in a tangible way.

Jesus was the center of their thoughts, their actions, their very being. Their existence was lived out in community, a community that allowed the Spirit to guide their new life in the resurrected Jesus. Then they took this message and shared it with others. They had experienced renewal and they were sharing that renewal wherever they went to whomever they met. Our story from Acts today gives us a prime example of how the apostles focused on renewal through a physical healing, but that wasn’t enough, the Apostles had devoted themselves to the restoration of all the parts of their life.

Look at their life. By living in a community that devoted themselves to their fellowship with one another, it was a healing thing.

They chose to share their possessions, so that no one was in need or want, again demonstrating the restoration of human life, this too was a healing thing.

By living in harmony with one heart and one mind, they demonstrated the essence of the Holy Spirit, again a healing thing.

That’s it…. it was the essence of the Holy Spirit which made this community so appealing and attractive to those who came in contact with them.

 

It was the apostles and those living with them, making their relationship with God the primary focus of their lives that gave them the ability to look towards others, as well as themselves.

The same message is for us today. We need to cultivate the same resurrection practices the early church engaged in.

-       by, devoting ourselves to the teaching of the Gospel and fellowship with believers, and the breaking of bread and to prayer

-       by working together in “one heart and mind”

-       by meeting the needs of those around us

-       by welcoming all we meet with the grace that God has given us

 

When we practice our faith together, we demonstrate the renewing presence of God, John 13:35 The Message (MSG)

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

This is a Holy Spirit thing, not a human thing. It is up to us to let go of the things that cripple us and keep us from being free. Like the man at the gate, we need to look Jesus straight in the eyes and respond to His call to “rise up and walk” and openly declare,

“God is among us”. Others will want to come alongside to experience the quality of a new life that we demonstrate by walking and leaping, instead of sitting and begging.

It’s up to each of us to choose.

As I was writing this message I kept thinking, “You know, this isn’t rocket science, it makes sense, why aren’t more people doing these things? Then I looked at my statement, “It’s up to each of us to choose.” And thought, when you choose, you have more than one thing to choose from, so what is the other thing or things we are choosing from.

 

Then it came to me, the choice is between

living through the Holy Spirit,

or living through what “I” want.

 

They say that pride is the mother of the vices, it is the reason that even angels fail. How often do we choose what “we” want rather than what the Holy Spirit wants? The example of the first church demonstrates that each of these people, who met Jesus, walked with Jesus, saw him crucified, then met the resurrected Jesus, let go of their own agenda. They understood that on their own they would fail. Not one of the apostles stuck through with Jesus to the end. They all, chose to protect themselves, especially Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times.

But once they met the resurrected Christ, and after the coming of the Holy Spirit, each of those apostles stopped living for themselves and lived with the Holy Spirit as their guide until the day they were martyred.

So, knowing what to do is easy, being willing to do it, is not.

That is where the power of the Holy Spirit comes in.

In the name of Jesus Christ, of Nazareth, we rise up and walk

Let’s pray.