Sermon from June 18th, 2017

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“Basic Christianity #2: Peter and John - From Failure to Courage”

2 Peter 1:1-9; Acts 4:1-23

By Pastor Ralph Boyer

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Sermon Text

Welcome to worship on this Father’s Day at Christ Lutheran.  And welcome if you’re listening on the radio.

If you’re a dad, a grandfather, a step-dad or foster dad, will you please stand.  Let’s thank them.

And let’s watch this video clip of thanks to Dads. 

Video clip  “Thanks Dad”

That’s a great tribute to all you dads out there for all the ways you bless your families.  You dads are essential, as are moms, to the family, the church and the world!

But I have to admit, as a dad, I haven’t always done all those things so well.  Yelling instead of smiling at spilt milk.  Not praying as faithfully or as passionately as I could.  Distracted by life and not always listening so well. 

So as dads, (or moms), what do we do with those failures?  There are no perfect parents.  And there are a few that are really bad!  So what do we do? Get rid of parents all together like in the old book, Brave New World?  Just raise kids in factories?

Isn’t that the crazy way our modern world reacts?  Something doesn’t work as well as it should?  So we want to get rid of it!?   And sometimes you need to start over when you’re talking human creations.  But if we’re talking about something that God almighty has designed and created in the first place, we should be looking for what we are doing wrong with it, that’s making it malfunction.  What can we do to support, improve, build up, whatever needs improving? 

It seems like in recent years we’ve learned some bad habits of tearing people down who aren’t prefect, instead of building them up!  I’m not suggesting overlooking faults and sin at all, but rather lifting up a higher vision,  of what marriage can be, of what our country can be, of what parents can be, of what life can be.

What is really more effective? To tear down all the imperfect people out there or to encourage and support them to grow into what the Lord intends them to be and what his forgiveness makes possible?

There are rare occasions when somebody is truly a danger to others and we can’t allow that to continue--- without radical change.  But I’m talking about encouraging, inspiring, reassuring moms and dads and teachers and leaders of all kinds to be the best they can be.

There’s an ad for foster parents on the radio that states that there are no perfect parents.  None of us can do perfection.  But more and better is always possible, if we realize that we’re not talking about squeezing more out of already exhausted moms and dads.

If we just demand more and more, we will get more and more---guilt that is!  Instead as Christ’s people, we need to relearn for ourselves---so that we can teach others---that what the Christian faith has to offer is not urging people to dig deeper and find more strength inside.  But rather we have a whole other source of strength that we often forget in the midst of our delusional self-reliance.

To be encouraged or to be inspired, doesn’t mean to find more power in yourself, but to realize the endless power that the Lord has to offer.  And both words as they are used in the Bible come with a meaning of being filled with the Spirit’s power that en-courages, gives courage---and that in-spires, gives breath and life to people.

Our new sermon series is on the book of Acts.  And the focus of the beginning of Acts is on the gift of Christ’s Holy Spirit---the power he promised that he would give to his people after he was physically gone from the earth.

Basic Christianity in the Book of Acts is our sermon series title and basic Christianity begins with learning that all life comes from God---the basic needs for life, the gifts of salvation, forgiveness and new life coming out of what Jesus has done for us, and the power to face life’s trials by the gift of Christ’s Spirit.

In Acts chapter 4, we hear of Peter and John being arrested and brought to testify before the religious rulers. They spent a night in jail and the next day---

Acts 4:7  “They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

They’re put on the spot.  The leaders did not want to hear about Jesus and his resurrection.  That was going to upset their power and undermine their authority.

Acts 4:8-10  “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.”

Wow!  That’s a gutsy statement!  Peter really had courage!  Both he and John were standing up to all the Jewish leaders and speaking out to the whole city of Jerusalem.  They were very brave, self-sacrificing and dedicated to tell the Good News of Jesus---no matter the cost!

But wait a minute! Isn’t this the same John who arrogantly set off a dispute with the other disciples when he and his brother told Jesus they wanted the good seats next to him in heaven?  Isn’t this the same Peter who walked out on water and then sank because his faith faltered?  Isn’t this the same Peter who was called Satan by Jesus because he tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross?  Isn’t this the same Peter who a few weeks before denied 3 times he even knew Jesus? 

They weren’t always so selfless and courageous I guess!  But look at that first phrase in verse 8.  “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…”  This wasn’t the same old John and Peter relying on their own strength.  This was John and Peter filled with the Holy Spirit!

We are just like John and Peter.  Imperfect disciples, flawed followers.  But when we follow the Lord, we are also filled with the Holy Spirit.  The problem is we keep falling back on our own power and coming up empty.  We forget---we are egotistical---we have bad habits of depending on ourselves in times of trouble---we neglect to take time to be recharged by the Spirit.  Which is why we often feel empty and don’t experience the Holy Spirit near as much as we need to.

Peter and John were en-couraged and in-spired by the Holy Spirit and so they could do things that a few weeks earlier they would never have dreamed of doing.

Acts 4:18-20  “Then they (the leaders of the Sanhedrin) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Later in his life, Peter would write this about what he learned to depend on for the power he needed in life---

2 Peter 1:3  “His divine power (the Holy Spirit) has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

He has given us everything we need for life!  So what does that mean for imperfect parents, imperfect VBS leaders, imperfect teachers or imperfect pastors,?  It means that we will fail, often even.  And if we try to live by our own power, we will fail miserably.  Yet when we use the power we are given in Christ and through his Holy Spirit, all things become possible.

2 Peter 1:5-7  “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Our part in life is to use these gifts that the Lord puts in our hands.  And we won’t always do it well.  But as we exercise those things like goodness and self-control and love, we grow to become more like the one who has en-couraged us and in-spired us.
And in turn, we can en-courage and in-spire those mothers and fathers and others around us with the gifts the Spirit has given us.

The power of the Lord is the source of every good thing we need to give glory to God, to help the people around us and to meet the challenges of today.  And even when we fail, God is ready to transform our mess into his masterpiece.

Video clip  “Our Mess, God’s Masterpiece”


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