Have you ever been listening to someone, or just reflecting on a situation and come to the sudden realization that you were wrong? You know, that sinking feeling that you have totally blown it and are helpless to make things right? It is a terrible feeling when it comes from within us, and is even more frightening when it comes from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. That kind of terrifying reality check is what happened to those gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2.

Peter is bringing his sermon to its end and says this:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:36, 37 NKJV)

What hit the audience that day was nothing short of cataclysmic. It would be bad enough to find out that the promised Messiah that you have been waiting centuries for had been killed. But Peter brings home the point that THEY had been the ones to have it done by the Romans! Could there be any sin in the universe greater than the murder of the Sin of God?

The word Luke uses here for being cut to the heart is only used once in the New Testament. It connotes being stabbed in the heart suddenly. This was not a slowly building realization of discomfort. This was a divine piercing through of the heart. And it must have been accompanied by the sudden dread of judgment for what they had done, for in verses 34 – 35 Peter had said,

“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

This was not a picture of someone using you as an ottoman. The picture that would have come to their minds was that of a heel on the neck. These men had been convicted by the true gravity of their sin, and their utter helplessness before a righteous and holy God. It must have been something akin to what Saul of Tarsus felt on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-9. He was breathing threatenings and murder against the believers, and was knocked off of his high horse in a blinding light. Have you ever wondered how doomed he felt when the voice said he was “Jesus whom you are persecuting”? He went from self righteous anger to “getting up trembling and astonished.”

This is what it means to be poor in Spirit. Before we can come to Christ we must come to the realization that we are hopelessly lost and condemned before God and fully deserving of His wrath. As long as we think we can do anything to rescue ourselves, we are not ready to be saved. Only when we come to that place in our hearts can we truly throw ourselves on His mercy and accept the forgiveness that is being offered, just like they did in Acts 2:38. Peter didn’t leave them hanging there. He told them what they must do in order to accept the free gift of the Grace of God.

There is no hint in apostolic preaching of “try this because Jesus will make your life better” or of “just be a good person.” The method of conviction of the sin of rejecting the Messiah must come first because that is part of the mission of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:8-9,

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; (John 16:8, 9 NKJV)

Salvation that begins at the place of utter inability to save ourselves will also result in disciples who are walking with God for the long haul. They are not coming to Jesus because He is really cool and makes them feel good. They are there because only Jesus can rescue them from the judgment to come. Don’t be afraid to talk about how our sins were part of what sent Jesus to the cross with a lost one. We must not neglect the preaching of judgment in our messages, lest we fail to show sinners the reality of their predicament and they someday find themselves standing before the Messiah they have rejected and are eternally lost.

20120915-003156.jpg

Advertisements