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Acts 3:11-26 - Be Blessed

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God's purpose is to bless by turning us from our wicked ways.

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It’s the last day of the Old Year. Tomorrow begins a new one. It will never be 2017 again.
How many of us have made New Year’s resolutions? I’m gonna bet that nearly every pastor talks about this today. But bear with me for a moment....
What is it you consider when you look back on your year and decide on a new year resolution?
We look back on things that we didn’t do so well, that we would like to do better. Usually, we are being our own judge on this - stuff like: be on time more, work out every day or week, eat healthy....
It’s mostly good stuff… though it can get narcissistic - the world will say take more “you” time, splurge and treat yourself occasionally.
Anyhow, we look back and we see things we could do differently. But we don’t really set up accountability for it, we don’t rally push ourselves hard beyond a week or two because we don’t fear doing about the same as last year. We just want to improve a little maybe, for whatever reason.
But thinking about this New Year resolution idea got me wondering.
What is our motivation behind evaluating our performance in life and pushing to do better? We do it in everything in life. We do it in our jobs with yearly performance reviews, or monthly sales reports. We do it at school with report cards and attendance records. We do it as a community with laws and courts and enforcement. We do it socially with reviews on products and likes on social media....
What is our motivation? Kids in school fear low grades and the parent’s disapproval or the coach’s sanction from playing. At work, when we don’t perform at peak, we dread our boss’s evaluation of us. As a small business owner, you dread bad reviews. It’s tempting to block out social media from commenting on your product or service for the fear of disappointing whoever it is we are serving. At home, we might fear disappointing our spouse or letting down our kids - or it might just be more self-centered than even that somehow.
And this fear is on our minds day in and out. Sometimes it is pretty subtle. But it’s there, and it rears up and asks to be addressed at the close of one year and the opening of the new.
Back a couple weeks ago we looked at Zachariah’s prophecy about Jesus found at the very end of .
And there we saw that God’s purpose in Christ was to bring us into a new life of service to him - a new life serving him without fear. There Luke records that God’s provision of salvation for us in Christ was:
Luke 1:74–75 NASB95
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
Serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness. He wants us to be able to serve him without fear. That implies that without Christ, there is some rightful fear.
Back when I was in school, kids would get a bit more tense when report card time rolled around. They were afraid of grades slipping, of being under expected performance. They would be afraid of letting down whoever they were responsible to. But then the report card would come out, the time would pass and they would get over it till it rolled around again. And again. And again. Same deal with a yearly review at a job.
So why is it that we fear those things yet so easily slip into our same habits and patterns of sin when it comes to what God expects of us? Is it that we don’t fear God?
See those report cards - the time interval is short, and you meet the person face to face. At the job, the yearly review - that’s yearly. It’s more important, but also less frequent.
But God… We only get out grade once when we finally meet him face to face. And that’s the final grade, not a you’re doing okay, but need to pull it up a bit. It’s a pass or fail. And by the time you see him, it’s decided already.
That can bring some fear when we think about it, can’t it?
But before Christ, people manage that fear handily by simply not thinking about it. After all, they’ve never met God. Maybe he doesn’t even exist....
Then the last day of life comes. People who understand what Zachariah was prophesying and have peace with God - they don’t fear death. Maybe a little pain, but not meeting their Father on the other side. They’ve learned to love God and discovered that he is truly good. And they don’t fear God because they have come to understand the greatest expression of his love, Christ.
When Peter caused a scene in the temple by acting in faith and in the power of Jesus to heal the lame beggar who sat at the Temple gate day in and day out, he proclaimed the power of Jesus and the identity of Jesus to the gathering crowd.
But he also very clearly points out their sin, a thing which, without Jesus, would indeed be cause for fearing God’s wrath.
Listen in:
Acts 3:11–18 NASB95
11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
Acts 3:11–26 NASB95
11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 “And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
Acts 3:
Betrayed. Disowned the one they had been long expecting, even when the Gentile governor recognized Jesus’ innocence. Preferred a wicked man, a murder as opposed to the “Holy and Righteous One” - they preferred a wicked man to the holy. They murdered the Prince of life. They acted in ignorance despite having the scriptures. And they caused they’re anointed savior to suffer.
This is a scathing condemnation of their sin. He doesn’t tread lightly! He treats it truthfully, not gently, but not self-righteously or pompously. He calls sin, sin.
And it is critical that, as you and I read this passage today, we acknowledge sin for what it is.

We must treat our sin with honesty - call it what it is.

Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t hide the report card, don’t add plus or minus to the B or C to make it sound fancy and nicer than what it is.
Acknowledge sin for what it is. Recognize that you and I each truly deserve to fear the day we meet the Lord if we go to do so while yet trusting to our own merit.
In fact, as Peter continues, he brings up exactly that point.
Acts 3:22–23 NASB95
22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’
Acts 3:22–23 NASB95
22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’
If you take a moment to look up the passage he is quoting in , notice verse 19:
If you
Deuteronomy 18:19 NASB95
19 ‘It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.
That last bit, “I Myself will require of him,” that means what Peter says it means in
Acts 3:23 NASB95
23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’
Everyone soul who does not heed the words of Jesus and entrust themselves to the savior as he calls them to do - every one of those souls God will call to account for their sin and they will be utterly destroyed.
But Peter doesn’t stop there, thank the Lord! From this foundation of truth comes the beauty of blessing. Peter reminds the Jews of their precious place in the Lord’s process of salvation! He begs them to repent and return to the Lord. Listen to Peter’s plea:
Acts 3:19–26 NASB95
19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 “And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
He reminds them of God’s precious purpose for them and points out that Jesus has gone back to heaven for now, awaiting the time when the Jews return to him before he comes back to earth bringing times of refreshing. Peter goes on to say the warning we have already looked at then points out again the great original promise to the fathers of Israel that was a blessing upon them.
Acts 3:19-26
Peter is reiterating that God has always preferred to bless Israel! Even in their heinous wickedness in crucifying his own son, God wants them back, wants to bless them.
Look at verse 26 again!
God sent Jesus to bless them! See, over and above the truth about their wickedness flows a beautiful theme of grace. God is not about beating Israel over the head with fear. The reality is there - that sin brings cause for fear of God. But the message of Jesus is that God wants to bless Israel by forgiving their sins and turning them from their wicked ways. It’s not about fear for them, and it is not about fear any longer for us. There is no condemnation for us in Christ - our sin is forgiven.
So how does all this apply to us in this new year?
Evaluate your motivation for being a better person and a better follower of Christ in the new year. Is it guilt ridden? Shame? Fear? Envy? Are you trying to improve as a person so that you can look at God and no longer fear him? If so, your motivation is off. He already provided that in Christ, and there is nothing you and I can add to his perfection.
But there is a correct motivation here for improving in the new year.

God's purpose in Christ is to refresh and bless us by turning us from our wicked ways.

God's purpose is to bless by turning us from our wicked ways.
He loves us so much he sent his Son. And the motivation we should have in this new life and in this new year is not one of guilt from our failures of last year. We are not vowing to do better going forward so that King Jesus will let us into his courts as we bargain our way in with promises of good behavior!
Our motivation is one of trust. We trust him that spiritual refreshment and blessing are ours as we turn, by his power and guidance, away from our past year’s and past life’s wicked ways.
We trust that turning away from wickedness is itself a blessing from God. It is not that our newfound righteousness brings with it automatic physical blessings. It is that the freedom from the wicked ways we previously served is the blessing itself. Sure there are clear blessings in life too. But the primary one is peace in your walk with God. And that is the greatest blessing you’ll ever know in this life.
Let me show you what I mean:
When you argue with your spouse and you huff off in anger, you walk away thinking to yourself, I wish he would do that, or I wish he would listen, or I wish she would shut up and follow me - when you broil and ferment, pause and ask yourself honestly if you are being wicked. Then ask yourself if you trust God enough to try it his way. Will you trust that he wants to bless and refresh your life as you turn away from your wicked ways? If the answers no, then what you are saying is you don’t trust God. Maybe you and I need to have a talk about why..... Call me, we’ll talk.
But if you do trust that he wants to bless you in Christ, then what you are saying is that the best way ahead for you in the moment is to turn away from that wicked way ahead. And you have to trust that his blessing is worth turning away from wickedness for. Do you trust him that walking the way of righteousness is better for you than walking the way of the wicked?
It’s like when we were teens and we
God’s purpose isn’t like your parents goal when you were a teen - to stop you from having any fun. His purpose is to bless you and refresh you despite our living in a world full of evil and sin and strife and suffering.
What happens when you turn away from the wicked ways of your life? You wind up living in holiness and righteousness without fear, just like Zachariah said God wanted for us!
So trust his purpose. Be blessed. Step one: Trust Christ for salvation. Step two: don’t hold on to your wicked ways. Recognize them as the past old year, gone, behind you, and welcome the new year, the new blessing of loving righteousness, not wickedness. Accept God’s blessing on you. That’s why he sent Christ - to bless you. Are you turning away from your selfishness and pride and lust and envy and arguments and slander and inappropriate conversation and gossip and love of the world and appetite and seeking your own pleasure? Are you accepting his blessing by letting go of those things? Or are you holding tight to them and avoiding the blessing of loving righteousness?
Those who love wickedness perish - he will call them to account.
Those who leave wickedness and love the righteousness of Christ granted to them - those have the blessing of God and new life with the Prince of life.
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