I have been reading the book of Acts lately and have been impressed by the sermons preached after the Holy Spirit came and filled God’s people with power to be witnesses of Christ. Peter’s masterful sermon on the day of Pentecost was a Christ-centered history lesson that showed how the God of history brought the King of Kings into the world to save men from their sins. 3,000 people were saved after hearing and responding to these words. In Acts 3, after a man lame from birth was healed in the Name of Jesus, Peter again preaches, explaining how this man was healed, but again putting the focus on Jesus as God and King. (It is interesting that in both messages, Peter blames his listeners for killing Jesus – not exactly the best way to endear yourself to the crowd.) In Acts 4, Peter and John are called before the religious leaders and Peter again preaches about Jesus. In Acts 7, after Stephen is arrested by the religious leaders, he preaches another historical review that culminates in another clear proclamation of who Jesus is. The result? He is martyred.
Here are a few observations I have as I compare these messages to what is being preached today:
- These messages would be considered too “boring” for our western churches today. Too much history, too little humor and engaging stories. Too much teaching, too little catchy principles for living. Try to read these sermons word for word at our gatherings this weekend – see how many people remain interested. Yet, look at what the Holy Spirit did through those words.
- These messages clearly lay out the track of redemptive history and the theology of who Jesus is before calling anyone to a response. Today, after hearing messages about how we can live better lives, preachers then give a quick invitation to “come to Jesus.” My question is, if Peter and Stephen felt led by the Spirit to clearly lay out the historical context for who Jesus is before they called people to respond, and their audience was vastly religious, how much more do we need to lay this groundwork as we communicate to a largely biblically illiterate and post-Christian culture today? When we don’t tell our audience who Jesus is, and then we tell them to “come to Jesus” – what are we calling them to? Maybe a better question is, “WHOM are we calling them to?” Is it to the biblical Christ, or the popular, tolerant, nice moral teacher Jesus of modern culture? I think that one of the reasons many people “fall away” from following Christ today is because the Christ they accepted was a caricature, not the real Christ. No wonder they fall away – a cartoon Christ cannot radically transform anybody.