By Simon ManchesterSunday 11 Jun 2023Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
Loving Father, as we think together this morning, for a few minutes on these verses in the book of Acts, we pray that you would be our helper, that these verses would not fall to the ground but that you would prepare us as good soil and that the seed of your word would land and bear good fruit in our lives. And we ask it in Jesus name, Amen.
Well, friends, I wonder if, you have the experience, which I do occasionally, perhaps regularly, of coming on Sundays and, being reminded really of God.
It’s almost as though we walk in and we suddenly find ourselves saying, Oh, yes, there’s God, to be sung to God, to be listened to God to be thought of. And then the reminder of God fades away between Sunday and Sunday. If it sounds like I’m being critical, let me say quickly to you that there is quite a deal of sadness. I think in the idea that God just lives in this building and that he deserts you as you leave and walk into Monday.
It’s almost as though God becomes like the service sheet you’ve been given. You know he’s good for an hour, but then you leave him behind as you leave the building.
If you think that, clergy have a kind of different brain and just think about God all the time, let me assure you that clergy do not.
If you think well, clergy are weird and they’re always thinking about heavenly things. But we’re normal, and we have to think about normal things. Let me assure you, the clergy are not good at thinking about heavenly things, but we need to be reminded ourselves all the time.
So I’m hoping that the verses in Acts three today will help us to see that there isn’t a minute of the week that’s coming that God is not involved in. And there isn’t a place that you go where God is not present. And there isn’t an issue that you’re dealing with that he’s not aware of and interested in. If I could, change the analogy. I didn’t wear glasses till I was 65, but I now can’t do much without glasses. I have to keep looking for my glasses. I need glasses sometimes to go looking for my glasses, and that enables me to see things which otherwise I just can’t see.
Just as I need to put glasses on to see certain things, I need the scriptures, like glasses, to see the way that life really works.
So we’re following the book of Acts in the New Testament. We are looking at what Christ did, how he acted through the early church. Today we come to the miracle in chapter three, which was just read for us where a lame man lame from birth was given strong and healthy legs – A miracle.
Uh, if you were in Sunday school 30, 40, 50 years ago, you would not escape singing the song which I won’t sing for you because I do love you. But, uh, the words of it are something like this. Peter and John went to pray. They met a lame man on the way. He held out his palms and asked them for arms meaning money. And this is what Peter did say silver and gold. Have I none. But such as I have, I give in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk and he went walking and leaping and praising God, walking and leaping and praising God, walking and leaping and praising God. So this was a familiar event for many Children in Sunday school. Now, why did Luke, the author of the Book of Acts of all the things that Jesus Did in the early church – Why did he describe this miracle at length when there are hardly any miracles like this described in the Book of Acts?
And I suspect that part of the reason is that this raising of a lame man would cause the onlookers who had been around in the time of Jesus to say, This is exactly what Jesus did when he was here on Earth, and now it looks as though it’s happening again. But he’s not on earth, and Peter would say to the onlookers, ‘Yes, because he’s alive and well in glory, still working on the Earth.’
And Luke writes, you see, this chapter to basically say he is still alive and well working on the earth. The same Jesus who did it before has just done it today. So Luke could have recorded many miracles, Um, which Jesus did in the early church, but this one, I think, is enough to say two things. And they are the two brief points this morning. One. Jesus Christ is working today.
Second, Jesus Christ is speaking today. First of all, Jesus Christ is working today. Now is this of any relevance to the people of this country? It is of huge relevance because there are lots of people in this country who assume that there is no God, and therefore nothing is happening except by chance. And then there’s other people who say there is a God, but he’s random, unpredictable and confusing. And then there’s other people, of course, who will say no. No, there are lots of gods and it’s pretty well, chaos, but they’re all doing stuff, and we can’t really follow or pull any of it together. The Bible says. All of that is mistaken.
There is one who sits on the throne called Jesus Christ, and he is at work in his world.
So we read in Chapter three, Verse one, that Peter and John went to the temple. Remember? They’re Jews. They’ve now met the Messiah. Who is Jesus? They are now leading the church, which has grown to about 3000 plus and they’re living in Jerusalem, the centre of the Jewish world. And they go to the temple to worship Jesus.
And there’s a beggar at the gate who holds out his hand for money. What used to be called arms. Peter and John had no money. How interesting. But they give him something more wonderful. They give him the gift of functioning legs, and the man immediately began to walk for the first time in his life. This is a creation miracle. He didn’t get some training in walking as a child does, or somebody does who’s been in bed for weeks and months. He just begins to walk and leap and praise God. As somebody has said.
Now that he has legs, he’ll be able to work for arms. Jesus always meets the greatest need more than we realise. So how did the miracle actually take place? You remember that Jesus while on Earth, would speak and create change as he spoke? Think of the Book of Genesis. Let there be and there is. Jesus would speak and there would be. And here Peter and John speak in Jesus name, they become his mouth pieces in other words. They speak on the Earth for Jesus in heaven. They verbalise his love to this man and his truth.
We’d need to get this, I think, because it wasn’t Peter and John with secret miraculous batteries. But Peter and John speaking Jesus words in Jesus name to this man. And so when the the crowd runs over, as we see in Chapter three, Verse 12, Peter wants to fight off any idea that they did this? And he says in verse 12, Why do you stare at us people as if by our own power or godliness, We had made this man to walk.
It’s Jesus Christ who has completely healed him. As you can all see, let me give an illustration which may stretch your credibility. But just imagine, you’re having coffee with a friend this week and just imagine, the friend says to you. I gather you’ve been to church lately. I wonder if you could explain Christianity to me. I know nothing and you talk to the person and you say, Well, we have a need, which is that we have sinned. We’ve fallen short of God’s standard, and there is good news that is Jesus has come and died in order to pay for our sins. And when we grasp the need and the news and we call to him, we are forgiven and drawn into the family.
And just imagine, for the sake of argument, the friend says to you, That’s exactly what I want. And you say to the friend Well, you need to pray a simple prayer. You need to ask God to forgive you and to welcome you into his family. And you do that at the coffee table. Then the friend says this to you. How can I know this is true? How can I know This is true And you say, Well, here is a promise from God in the scriptures and you speak the promise and the friend is filled with joy and assurance.
Now do you see what’s happened? Jesus Christ did work through Peter and John speaking to this man and he received the miracle of new legs. Jesus Christ speaks through somebody like you or me. The gospel The good news for there to be an even greater miracle, we might say an eternal miracle where a person comes into the very family of God, but we need to ask a couple of big questions this morning. First of all, why did God do miracles then? Wouldn’t it be great if he did some today? It would make our life so much easier witnessing to the people of woah!
And of course, there were many miracles done. You can see in Chapter five that it says there were many, many miracles done. Not all of them described. Now, a big part of the answer to why God did the miracles in the past is that God reinforced key times in his communication with demonstration. I’m gonna say that again. God reinforced key times in his communication with demonstration. In other words, at the time where the word of God came, God produced works to back it up.
So you remember, for example, that when Moses brought the law, there were lots of miracles. You may remember that when the prophets, like an Elijah and an Elisha came and spoke the word of God, there were lots of miracles.
When the living word Jesus came into the world, there were lots of miracles, the greatest miracles. And when the apostles came to bring the gospel. There were lots of miracles. There are other miracles in Scripture, but most of them gather around Moses, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles. Most of them gather around those milestones.
Second question we want to ask is Why wouldn’t God heal a lame man? Today there are millions of people who would do anything for a healing or a miracle. And you like myself long for people to be delivered quickly from their troubles and their sufferings. Uh, during this week, I’ve spoken to a man who, after 67 years, has had to put his wife into special care.
And they’re separated for the first time for good. I’ve spoken to a man whose wife has died recently, and he is unbearably lonely. There are so many people suffering. There are so many people who would love to have a miracle take place. And much as I would love immediate help for everybody, the god of the Bible shows us in the Scriptures that he can do immediate help. But he will do ultimate help, and God’s people wait patiently with the supplies that he gives them in the present, waiting for the change that will come in the future that will come. You remember Jesus specifically said he came to preach the kingdom. He came to open the door to the kingdom.
He didn’t come to fix every person. You may notice in the New Testament that a lot of people he didn’t heal a lot of people he didn’t raise from the dead. The apostles here in acts three didn’t say to the crowd as they ran over now form an orderly queue and we will heal all your problems.
No, They preached a sermon about knowing Christ. So Jesus is very much at work in the world. But we must go where he is going and not ask him to go where we are going.
Christianity is learning to bow to Christ, grateful for mercy today, grateful for glory One day it’s religion which so often acts in a manipulative way as if to say to God, I’ve done this and this and this and this. Now you must do this. That’s not the way God works at all.
If we come back to the original issue that I was raising of where Jesus is at work today, I think the answer is that he is at work in all the normal ways which we see in our world. He’s doing in his world everything that is necessary. Did you and I get up this morning? Yes, that’s because of the power, power of Jesus Christ. Are we breathing? That’s because of the power of Jesus Christ. Do we see the grass growing? It’s the power of Jesus Christ. Do we see that seasons change? It’s the power of Jesus Christ bringing people into his family through the gospel all over the world.
He’s behind every good discovery. He’s at work through every trial that we are going through. And he is the God who brings us to the outcome at the end. CS. Lewis puts this beautifully. If you listen to this, it may be the most wonderful thing you hear all morning, CS Lewis said. God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and with the aid of the sun to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities.
Thus, every year, God turns water into wine, but men fail to see. They attribute this to the chemical and other material phenomena, which are all that our sensors can discover.
But when Christ at Caner made water into wine, the mask came off. The miracle has half its effect. If it only convinces you that Christ is God, it will have its full effect if whenever you see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine, you remember that here works. He who sat at the wedding party in he goes on to say the doctor puts the bandage over the injury.
But neither the doctor nor the bandage caused the healing. That’s the work of the Creator. That’s the work of Christ. So that’s the first question. Jesus Christ is very wonderfully at work today, and I want to encourage you, as I’m urging myself this week to see him at work in everything. That’s the privilege of putting Bible glasses on, to be able to walk into the world this week and say, Look at what he’s doing. Look at what he’s doing. How did that happen without his power?
The second question more briefly, Jesus Christ is still speaking today. Uh, you remember when the lame man came down through the roof, obviously to have his legs made well.
And Jesus said, those remarkable words, son, your your sins are forgiven. In other words, there’s something bigger than just getting your health. Do you remember when the lame man in John, Chapter five was told to get up and walk and Jesus went and found him and said, Stop sinning or something worse may happen here in acts Chapter three, we see exactly the same pattern that Peter is burdened after the miracle, to say something which is eternal, more significant than just temporary relief.
And so Peter begins to interpret the miracle because the works of Jesus need interpretation. I wonder if you realise this, that when you see a crucifix hanging around somebody’s neck, what does that say? Does the crucifix hanging around somebody’s neck with Jesus still on the cross? Tragically, does it say tragedy or sympathy? Because it should say what the Bible says, which is the righteous died for the unrighteous. That’s the interpretation.
When the disciples got to the empty tomb, what did they conclude? Stolen body? No, no, the messengers of the tomb said he’s risen. You’ll meet him in Galilee, and it would be easy, wouldn’t it? After acts Chapter three and the healing of this lame man to say Well, Peter and John are amazing, but Peter and John have something more serious to say. And that is they want to say this was done by Jesus.
He’s alive and well on the throne of heaven. And then they go on to say something more serious to the onlookers. You remember these onlookers had helped Jesus to die seven weeks before. And Peter says to them, You handed Jesus over. Pilate didn’t want him to die. But you pushed for him to die. You disowned him. You killed him.
Because these people must face their sin if they’re ever to appreciate the Saviour. If I’m not mistaken, friends, the seed of wanting Jesus out of the way are very much in my heart. For me, to have Jesus out of the way when it suits me is very real. Part of my sinfulness, if I may say so, the seeds are in your heart as well.
The ability that we have to if it were possible to have Jesus out of the way when it suits us is part of our own sinfulness. And so the road that we’re born on is a very, very independent road, isn’t it? It’s also the road that we choose, and we feel at home on to be independent and to be the king in the world. But it leads to the courtroom of God where we’ll one day hear the words the part. So, Peter calls on them to repent.
In other words, abandon the road you’re on because if you stay on the road that you’re born on, it will go through to hell. And he calls on them to turn to the only person in the universe who can deal with the sin, forgive and draw you into the family of God.
It’s impossible. You see, for people to walk the road which is called I am King Jesus is my mascot. That road ends in departs. But there is a road available because Christ died to open the road where Christ is king and self is servant.
And that road has welcome at the beginning. Welcome at the middle and welcome at the end.
Is it kind to tell a person that the road that they’re on contradicts the way of salvation? Yes, it is. Is it kind to tell a person that the way that they are behaving contradicts the word of God. Yes, it is. If it’s unkindly, the world is full of warnings, isn’t it? Most people consider the warnings of the world to be kind. Even those terrible warnings on cigarette packets or they’re attempting something, aren’t they?
But now the church is being told by outsiders and even by insiders that we must applaud everything and my friends. That’s exactly what the devil did in Genesis Chapter three. He basically said, You can do anything. It doesn’t matter what you do or we’ll be fine. You won’t die. You’ll be fine. I hope that as long as this church lasts, I hope that as long as I have the privilege of being here, and I’m sure I speak for Marcello and Chris as well that we will be telling the truth of Christ and the love of Christ and that the truth of Christ and the love of Christ will dictate our path.
We don’t want a fork tongue in the pulpit. We don’t want a fork tongue in the pew pushing people down a forked road.
So the great thing of acts Chapter three. I hope you’ll remember. This is that Jesus on the throne is at work in his world. He did do a miracle of raising this lame man, but that was to reinforce the great message of the gospel that he is the king of kings and the Saviour of sinners. And this gospel is being echoed down the centuries wherever Christ’s people go living, praying and working.
I finish by telling you that I’ve always admired a man called Abraham Kipper, who was a great theologian, a Dutch theologian, and he became the prime minister of the Netherlands at the turn of the 20th century. But at the beginning of his life, he was a pastor, and he was a terrible pastor. Uh, basically, he was a confused heretic. The congregation, listening to him, said, He’s destroying our church. Nobody wanted him anywhere near them.
But a lady called Mrs Bao asked him to come and visit her. And when Abraham Kiper, the young pastor, came to visit her, she told him of her faith and her hope, and she said to him, You will perish without these And Abraham Kipper began to visit her regularly, and she taught and trained him. And he became a clear Orthodox Christian leader whose writings whose leadership have impacted millions.
And that’s the God you see who is alive and at work today. Jesus Christ. How come that lady could do that? Because Jesus Christ is at work today and speaking today. And I hope this week that you and I will see in the week and hear in the word that Jesus Christ is still at work and is still speaking. May God bless you.
Let’s pray together
We thank you our heavenly Father, for this little window into the working of Christ and the News of Christ. We pray that you would give us eyes to see and ears to hear for his glory and for our life, for you in Jesus name, Amen.