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"Embracing God's Sovereign Power for
Spiritual Renewal and Revival" (e)

Acts 3:1-4:21

I read a statement the other day that said that all the spiritual revivals recorded in God's Word only occurred in the Old Testament history. Great men like Hezekiah, Josiah and Nehemiah led them. The author went on to say that there is no recorded spiritual revival occurring in the New Testament. At first that sounded pretty good, but after thinking about that for a couple of days, I began to realize that statement wasn't exactly true. Actually the entire New Testament is about the greatest spiritual revival of all time. God is seeking a spiritual renewal and revival of humanity through Christ. The gospel went to the Jew first because God wanted to revive Israel in Christ. Then the gospel went to the uttermost part of the world

Acts chapter 3 might seem like an odd chapter to many to find principles for rededicating our efforts in God's service. But it was here at the temple God sought to renew and revive his chosen ones. The fundamental principles essential for personal and congregational spiritual revival are found in this story. The truths in this story are crucial to the basic concepts of renewal.

Luke doesn't spend his energy analyzing what is happening. He only tells it in storybook form. He knew that we would only get paralysis from analysis. It is in this true-life story that we find the power of God for those in need of renewal. The healing of a birth deformity becomes the backdrop to reveal the power of God for a new spiritual beginning. It is God's power seen in this healing that is absolutely essential for a spiritual rebirth.

The opportunity for a new start following a failure is the major distinctive of Christianity. While most Christians acknowledge this opportunity for an individual, many fail to allow its application to congregations that have gone into decline. To the alarm of some observers, it would seem that a great number of people believe that once a church starts downhill, it can never be reversed. Because of this failure-oriented mindset, many churches disintegrate unnecessarily. While some churches really are declining, and renewing a struggling church is a monumental task, the barriers can be overcome. The power of God should not be sold short--it is His church, after all, and He is able to bring about the needed changes. Human effort alone cannot sustain or build a fellowship.

The Authoritative Power of Christ Brings Revival

As we follow this story through chapter 4, at least eight references are made to the "name of the Lord." Peter proclaims the power for salvaging our lives, for beginning life anew begins with the authoritative power found in Christ. The miracle performed simply substantiates his claim. Peter makes a bold proclamation.

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:8-12 NIV)
You have probably heard someone say, "You can use my name." That usually means, in certain circles, their name carries a certain amount of clout. However, a human name won't get you very far, because regardless of the circumstance, human authority and power is very limited in the overall scheme of things. If you were to go to the White House and say, "Jim Davis sent me." How far do you think that would get you? But if you were extended an invitation by the authority and power of the president, that would have clout. Yet, when it comes to salvation, Christ has all authority and power. It is through the authority and power of Christ that we find hope for rebirth and renewal. It is little wonder that the apostles proclaim the authority and power of Christ. In essence, that is what the very name Church of Christ stands for. Everything we do should be done by the authority and power of the living Christ.

There is power in Christ name. The Jewish community, before whom this miracle was performed, faced two alternatives. They could continue to trust in their personal ability to save themselves through obedience to the law or they could trust in the authority and power of Christ to save them. We may think the choice is obvious. But for those who have lived out their lives trusting in self, the choice doesn't seem to be that obvious. It is especially not as obvious as it might seem for those of us who have grown up believing that you must pull yourself up by your own bootstraps through personal strength and ingenuity. This approach about making a difference in our world leaves the vast majority on the outside looking in.

Acts 3:4-8
Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. (NIV)
The power for rebirth and renewal is only found in God through Christ. It comes down to one simple question . . . Shall we continue to depend upon our own efforts, or shall we receive by faith the power of God found in the name of Christ? This was not only the choice of the Jews in Acts 3, but it continues to be our choice today.

Paul wrote,

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. (1 Corinthians 3:6-13 NIV)
It is not the quantity of our faith, but the quality of our faith that makes the difference. A quality faith is found in Christ. It is through faith in Christ that we allow God to enter our lives, enabling rebirth and renewal. It is a mutual effort. As we follow the Spirit's leading and guidance through faith, we allow God's transforming power to enter our lives.

Embracing God's Power Brings Spiritual Revival

It wasn't a power that brought attention to the apostles. The early disciples always stressed the power of the risen Lord. They never regarded themselves as the sources of power but only as channels of power. They were well aware of the limitations of what they could do. They were aware of their previous failures.

Peter said to the Jews, "Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" (3:12) Then Peter says that it was "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." (3:16)

God's salvaging power is identical with the power that made the cripple whole. Later in the story we find the apostles preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is here that we discover the power for a new beginning is also identical to the power exerted in Jesus' resurrection from the dead. (4:2) It was this power that gave unschooled, ordinary men astonishing courageous boldness. (4:13) It was God's power that made what they said powerfully undeniable. Luke writes, "But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say." (4:14)

They recognized the need for God's sovereign power to make their mission successful. Notice what Luke writes in the latter part of chapter 4.

Acts 4:23-31
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. ( NIV)
Through faith they were trusting in God's sovereign power to enable them to proclaim his Word and accomplish his will. The power was such that they couldn't help speaking about what they had seen and heard. (4:20)

God's Power Embraced through Renewing your mind.

"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-- even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'" (Acts 3:17-23 NIV)
Times of refreshing or renewal are dependent upon repentance. Although there is nothing comparable with God's power, it is powerless to salvage our lives without our cooperation. Peter points out our personal responsibility in accepting the power of God. "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-- even Jesus." (3:19-20) Repentance focused them on the possibilities of a personal faith in Christ.

In Ephesus, the burning of the magic books showed the depth of repentance following Paul's preaching. They were preparing to reprogram their mind to think scripturally instead of reliving and dwelling on past inadequacies. The beginning of the church occurred in a revival setting, with large numbers of conversions in a short time.

Repentance involves embracing all there is of God. Some come to Acts 3 believing what is said here makes other commands unnecessary. They believe Peter's teaching of repentance negates what he said about baptism in Acts 2:38. In the previous chapter, Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Yet, Peter doesn't mention baptism in Acts 3. However, a little thought reveals that repentance must embrace all there is of God. Repentance has to do with changing our minds about how we are living. Repentance is exchanging our way of thinking for God's way of thinking. Essentially that must include everything God has taught through the inspired writers. Therefore, we must see repentance as embracing all of what God has taught on every subject rather than seeing repentance as negating God's previous teaching on any requirement. In the word repent, we see a figure of speech where one word is used to describe the whole process of conversion. It is inclusive; it does not eliminate anything previously taught on baptism, confession, etc.

As the Spirit of God, through the teaching of the Word, turns us to embrace all there is of God, we begin to discover the refreshing enabling power of God to begin a new way of thinking and living.

God's Power Embraced through Praise and Prayer

Praise "opens the door to everything--and the pathway God directs us to walk." Far from being a religious ritual, true worship is an individual reflecting a proper value judgment about God. In fact, the English word "worship" comes directly from the word "worth." Our God is worth praising.

When the Prince of Wales visited a city in India many years ago, everyone was occupied with the splendor of his greatness. His name was on every tongue, and he was given great honor. As he was about to return to England, a large crowd including many noblemen came to the railroad station to bid him farewell. From private soldier to mighty merchant, they all fixed their eyes on him as he stood with royal bearing waiting for the approaching train. Suddenly the prince spied a little child on the tracks. Realizing the danger, he instantly rushed forward and picked him up in his arms. When the people saw their royal visitor stoop down to save the youngster, shouts of praise broke forth. He was exalted in their eyes even more than before!

When Peter and John returned from the Sanhedrin court, they had seen first hand the power and willingness of God to assist them in difficulties. This resulted in them praising God for his direction and deliverance.
 

"On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:23-31 NIV)


Praise and prayer go hand in hand. Until we learn to praise God for what he has done, we will never be able to pray properly. Praise is aimed at recognizing who God is and what God has already done in history. In their praise they recognized what God had done and then they began to realize what God could accomplish through them. It is little wonder that they began to praise God for what he had done and ended up praying for him to continue his powerful work through them. So they prayed, " . . .Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

Conclusion:

"What should our attitude and posture be as we approach God--repentance or celebration? Jeremiah tells us that those who come into God's presence will do so with tambourines and dancing (31:4), but notice what Jeremiah says next: They shall come up to Zion with weeping and supplication (31:9). The fact is, as we approach God's awesome presence, we need a great capacity to do both: to leap with unspeakable joy, and to weep in agonizing prayers of supplication and repentance." (Gerrit Gustafson in Worship Today, Sep/Oct 1993)

The histories of many churches will reveal that a large percentage of them have experienced periods of stagnation at one time or another, yet have survived and even flourished.

Growth can occur even without costly programs and evangelism efforts as churches acknowledge that it is God who gives the increase. New members and new leaders can bring new life into a church and can even help overcome obstacles that have stymied growth in the past. The remnant of faithful ones has always been God's starting point for renewal.

"Renewing the church is like remodeling your house: it takes longer than you hoped, costs more than you planned, and makes a bigger mess than you ever thought possible." --Paul Smith (quoted in Christianity Today, Oct 25, 1993)
 
 

 

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