Surrender to God Who Loves You
by Jack Wald | July 5th, 2020

Acts 3:11-26

I preached last week about the first account in Acts of the disciples moving out into the world, bringing the kingdom of God into the lives of people they encountered. When the disciples were with Jesus, he sent them out to heal and preach that the kingdom of God was near, but now with Jesus ascended into heaven and with the power of the Holy Spirit, they went out on their own to bring the kingdom of God to the people they encountered.

Peter and John went to the Temple to pray and they passed a man who was born lame who sat by the main entrance into the Temple at what was called the Beautiful Gate.

It is interesting to note that Jesus passed this man many times without healing him. Jesus went into the Temple during the festivals and passed through this gate. The man sat there every day, begging. He had done this for years and Jesus had passed him many times without healing him.

The focus this morning will be on the sermon Peter preached, but it is helpful to see that healing seems to have a strategic purpose behind it. The kingdom of God has come, but it has not yet come in all its fullness. In the kingdom of God, everyone will be healed. Here on earth, some will go through their whole life without being healed, no matter how often people pray for healing.

In John 7:6–9 there is an account of the brothers of Jesus mocking him for not going to the festival in Jerusalem. Jesus responded,
“My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

Later, Jesus secretly went to Jerusalem for the festival and he probably walked past the man who was healed by Peter and John. Did he see him? Did he notice him? Jesus knew now was not the time.

Jesus passed by this man who was lame, but in the purposes of God, as Peter and John passed by, the time for this man to be healed had come. The beggar called out for help to them and to all the others who were heading into the Temple for the prayers.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 

As I mentioned last week, this was a spectacular miracle. This man was born without his ankle bones connected. He had never walked, never developed his leg muscles. Modern medicine could have healed him with several operations and then months and months of physical therapy to strengthen his muscles so he could walk.

All this happened in an instant and he jumped to his feet. After sitting day after day, month after month, year after year and watching other people walk, something he was incapable of doing, now he could not stand still. He was walking. He was jumping. He was shouting out praise to God.

Everyone was amazed and why would they not be amazed? This was a spectacular miracle.

This brings us to the text this morning.
While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.

Why did this man hold on to Peter? Some say that he was feeling unsure of his newfound mobility, but when Luke says he was walking and jumping, I don’t think there was any unsteadiness or fear or anxiety in him. He was filled with pure delight. I think he held on to Peter and John because he did not want the men who had healed him to get away.

The people Jesus healed, many of them, followed him. They had suffered for so many years, they did not want to lose Jesus who had healed them. Mary Magdelene was delivered from seven demons, a hellish existence, and followed Jesus for the rest of his earthly life. She was witness to his crucifixion. She was there early in the morning at his tomb on the day he resurrected from the dead. Mary was one of the great saints of the early church and followed Jesus until the day she died and went to be with him in heaven.

This man held on to Peter and John and while he was holding on to them, the word had spread like wildfire among the people who had come to the Temple to pray. “You know the lame man who begs at the gate called Beautiful? He’s walking and jumping! He’s been healed!” “How did that happen?” “Two men were walking by and they healed him. Come and see.”

All the people were astonished and came running to them.

Now Peter had an audience and he preached the second sermon of the first church.

I said last week that wonders and signs are powerful in the growth of the kingdom of God because they get the attention of people and make people ask questions. The best evangelism is to live a life that raises questions in the minds of people. Wonders and signs do this. When the questions are asked, then the gospel can be shared.

Peter preached his first sermon after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples on Pentecost. When the disciples began speaking in the languages of the people who gathered, they asked questions that Peter addressed in his sermon.

The crowd in the Temple stood there looking at the man born lame who they had all seen begging at the gate called Beautiful, day after day after day. They knew him well. But now he was standing, unable to keep still, enjoying his new muscles, enjoying his new mobility. They were bubbling over with questions, eager to hear what Peter had to say.

Peter spoke to the crowd.
When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?

Peter immediately made it clear to the crowd that he had not healed the man. The crowd was ready to put the spotlight on Peter and Peter deflected the praise and put the spotlight on Jesus.

This makes me think of Paul and Barnabas in Lystra. (Acts 14:8–20)
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

The people of Lystra called Paul and Barnabas gods. The Jews in the Temple were ready to elevate Peter and John, put them on a pedestal to be admired and followed.

But Peter had been humbled by his denial of Jesus. Paul had been humbled by being a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. Both Peter and Paul knew who they were and who they served. They knew it was the power of God working through them, not their own talent and charisma, that brought such great healing to people.

This is such an important lesson for us. When the Holy Spirit gives the gift of healing to someone, the gift is given to serve the church, not serve the person using the gift. Peter and Paul worked to build the kingdom of God. They were not working to build their own kingdom, build up their own reputation.

I am suspicious of people who have healing ministries and make themselves the center of attention. John Wimber, who started the Vineyard Church and had a healing ministry, had this to say:
I have made it a matter of policy never to accept gifts for healing. Greed and materialism are perhaps the most common cause of the undoing of many men and women with a healing ministry…When I pray over people for God to release the healing ministry, I always instruct them never to accept money for healing.

As I have said before, for twenty years I have been praying for a ministry of wonders and signs to be raised up in Morocco and I have prayed that the person or persons leading this ministry will have the humility and wisdom to deflect to God the praise that comes from those who are healed and from those who observe the healings. It is Jesus who heals; we are only the vessels that bring the healing. I want to see God’s kingdom grow, not anyone’s earthly kingdom.

Peter preached:
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

Peter begins with: “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” Peter speaks to his Jewish audience, drawing their attention to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Peter makes it clear that he is not speaking of a new religion; he is speaking of the God who chose Abraham, chose Isaac, chose Jacob, chose the descendants of these three patriarchs to be his chosen people in the world.

The God of Israel glorified his servant Jesus. God honored Jesus. In contrast…

Peter begins hurling his accusations to the people listening to him.
You handed him over to be killed
You disowned him before Pilate
You disowned the Holy Righteous One
You asked that a murder be released to you
You killed the author of life

Jerusalem had a population of about 50,000 that swelled during the three annual festivals when Jews from all over Palestine and countries beyond came to Jerusalem. In a city this size, news travels very rapidly and the whole city knew about Jesus, his miracles, his claims. Everyone knew that he had been crucified. The story had circulated that his disciples claimed Jesus had risen from the dead. Was this true? Jesus was a huge news story in Jerusalem.

Now, standing before them was the beggar who sat at the gate called Beautiful and he was no longer sitting. He was walking, he was jumping. Peter had their attention and he let them know that it was Jesus who had healed this man and that they were responsible for his death.

It was the Romans who nailed Jesus to the cross and crucified him and they were not permitted in the Temple. So they were not there. Some of the crowd may have been in the courtyard when the crowd shouted that Jesus should be crucified, but not all of them had been there. Some may have cried out to have Barabbas released rather than Jesus, but not all of them. So why did Peter tell them, “You killed the author of life.”

In the Stuart Townend song, How Deep the Father’s Love we sing,
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon his shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has bought me life
I know that it is finished.

Jesus did not go to the cross because the chief priest took him to Pilate. Jesus did not die on the cross because Pilate ordered his soldiers to crucify him. Jesus died on the cross because it was God’s plan for Jesus to die so that we could be set free from the penalty for our sin and enter into his kingdom.

So while the Jews listening to Peter may not have been directly responsible for accusing Jesus, calling for him to be crucified, and killing him, it was because of their sin and our sin that Jesus died.

Peter continued:
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 completely healed him, as you can all see.

It is one thing to send an innocent person to their death, but this innocent person, Jesus, was far more than innocent. Jesus is the one who healed the man born lame. Everyone was astonished at what had happened and everyone was shocked and dismayed to hear that the person who had healed this man was the one who had been crucified.

Whatever the people of Jerusalem had thought about Jesus and his crucifixion, they now realized a huge mistake had been made. Jesus was more than a mere man. He was God’s chosen man. Jesus was the Messiah and the stories about Jesus being resurrected were true. Jesus was alive and this miracle was proof of his resurrection.

We understand that Peter spoke a lot longer than this very brief synopsis of what he said, but at this point in his sermon, what were people in the crowd thinking, what were they feeling?

They were witnesses to an amazing miracle and now, to their dismay, they realized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Israel had been waiting for the Messiah to come for four hundred years and finally he had come. But how had they responded? Did they run to follow him? Did they welcome him? Did they honor him? No! They had rejected him. They had killed him. They had killed the Messiah who had been sent by God.

What would happen to them? What hope was there for them?

They felt a bit like what I think Saul felt as he lay on his face on the road to Damascus in the presence of the resurrected Jesus. Saul asked, “Who are you Lord?” and when he heard Jesus tell him, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” Saul said to himself, “Uh-oh!” or perhaps something more profane.

But Jesus gave Saul hope and now Peter did the same to the crowd listening to him in the Temple.
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Jesus prayed on the cross, (Luke 23:34) “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Later in Acts, when Stephen was stoned to death, his last words were, (Acts 7:60) “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

This is what Peter is saying to the Jews in his sermon. “You acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.” You did not know what you were doing. You leaders did not know what they were doing. And actually, what happened is what God told the prophets would happen. The Messiah was going to suffer when he came.

The Jews and their leaders did not know what they were doing, but they still had responsibility for what happened. So Peter called them to repent.

The Hebrew word for repentance is shuv which means turn. It is not a slight deviation, it is a 180? turn. Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning toward good. We have been walking away from God and now we turn and begin to walk toward God. To shuv is not just philosophical, it is very practical. We turn away from destructive behavior and replace it with positive behavior.

The Jews listening to Peter had rejected Jesus. The Jewish leaders had called for him to be crucified. Now Peter calls them to shuv, to turn 180?, to turn from rejection of Jesus to become a follower of Jesus.

Peter tells them there are three blessings that come from turning to follow Jesus. First, “your sins may be wiped out.” This word, “wiped out” carries the meaning of “washed off”, “erased”, “obliterated.” It is the word used in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

This is what Psalm 103 tells us: (Psalm 103:8–12)
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

The second blessing that comes from repentance is, “times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Repentance, acknowledging our sin, confessing our sin, is not a negative experience. We do not like to admit that we are wrong, that we are deficient, that we have not measured up to what is expected of us. To sit in a circle and have people “help you” by telling you all the bad things about you, all the things you have done wrong so you can be aware of how sinful you are, is a destructive experience.

But notice in Psalm 103 that this section begins with the love of God. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” When Peter fell to his knees in his boat and cried out to Jesus, (Luke 5:8) “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”, this was preceded by a demonstration of the love of Jesus. When Isaiah cried out in the Temple, (Isaiah 6:5) “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty,”
this was preceded by an experience of the holiness and love of God.

When we understand we are deeply loved by God and repent, there is a surge of refreshment that comes to us. We are relieved of the burden we have been carrying, we rejoice that we have been set free. It is a healing experience.

The third blessing that comes with repentance comes from the next verse.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

I think Peter is saying, “You missed your chance to walk with Jesus as we did, but repent and you will have that chance in the future because Jesus is coming back.”
Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

Jesus had only been gone for a few weeks and already Peter is talking about his return.

When we repent, our sins are forgiven, erased, as far as the east is from the west, so far have are they are removed from us. We are forgiven and receive refreshment that comes from having our burden lifted from us. We are set free. And then we wait with hope because this world with all its sorrow is not going to last. We are moving toward the time when Jesus will return and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Peter finished his sermon quoting Moses, Samuel and all the prophets, and Abraham, making sure they understood once again that Peter was not creating a new religion. He was speaking about the fulfillment of what Moses, the prophets, and Abraham had seen coming in the future. The long promised Messiah has come. He had been rejected and killed by the Jewish leaders, but it was not too late. It was still possible to repent and become followers of Jesus, the Messiah who had suffered and died and then resurrected from the dead.

In this sermon Peter lifted up Jesus, put the spotlight on Jesus. Jesus was exalted in what Peter said and did. The devil cannot stand the exaltation of Christ so he stirred up the Sanhedrin to persecute the apostles and that is what we will come to next Sunday as we move into Acts chapter 4.

There are some Christians today who reject this message. They deny what Peter says that it is our sin that put Jesus on the cross. They deny that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. They deny what theologians call penal substitution. Here is a definition:
The penal substitution theory teaches that Jesus suffered the penalty for mankind’s sins. Penal substitution derives from the idea that divine forgiveness must satisfy divine justice, that is, that God is not willing or able to simply forgive sin without first requiring a satisfaction for it. It states that God gave himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for our sin.

Here is what one person wrote about his objections to the understanding that Jesus took on himself the penalty for our sin.

Penal substitution claims that God actively punishes his children for disobeying him; that in contrast to his holiness, every single human being is so filthy that we deserve not just to die, but to be tortured for all eternity. That although God loves us, he must balance out the cosmic weighing scales by unleashing his wrath and punishment on anyone who has not accepted Jesus as their Personal Saviour.

So a young boy is born into a war zone, experiences a life full of fear and pain, and drowns at three years old when the boat carrying him to safety sinks. Death for him doesn’t bring relief, but eternal conscious torment in a lake of fire. Or even “an eternity separate from God” (a phrase people like to use to make hell sound more palatable).

And we are supposed to love this God?

There are so many things wrong with this man’s understanding. Let me make a brief response.

People who reject Jesus taking our sin on himself do that because they grew up viewing God as an angry bully who carries a big stick and is eager to whack us with it. They change John 3:16 from “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” to “For God so hated the world that he killed his one and only Son.”

There are preachers who say things that give this impression, but that is not how the Bible portrays God. There is a narrative in the Bible from beginning to end that tells of God’s powerful love for us and how much he is willing to do to rescue us and bring us into his eternal kingdom. He created us to be with him for eternity and all he has done, from Abraham to Moses to the prophets to sending Jesus to be born on earth is testimony of his love for us.

We are not the ones who determine who is saved and who is not. In the first year after I began following Jesus, my grandmother died. I had a very close, emotional relationship with my grandmother. I talked with her on the phone when she was dying in the hospital and told her, “Mama, put yourself in Jesus’ hands. He will take care of you.” She said, “I have.” But still, for weeks after she died I agonized. Did she go to heaven or not? Finally I realized that God loved her much more than I was capable of loving her and he would do everything possible to help her choose to be in his kingdom.

The example of the young boy drowning is a horrible example because the man writing this is making a decision about whether or not this boy will be in heaven. Salvation is a mystery and all we know is that God is deeply passionate and his great desire is that all will be saved and come into his kingdom. God will do everything possible, without violating our free will, to help us choose to be with him.

N.T. Wright says that sin is not particularly the things we do or say or think, sin is our failure to be human. To be human is to be made in the image of God and our human nature, our sinful preoccupation with ourselves pulls us away from that image. We become less than human and our humanity needs to be restored.

It is not that we need to be punished for our sin; it is that there are consequences for our sin. God did for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves. The amazing, powerful love of God reached down to us. God himself, Jesus, took on himself the consequence for our sin.

This made it possible for us to be released from the burden of sin and set free to live in the freedom that life with God offers.

God is not a bully who delights in whacking us. God does not look at us and think we are filthy creatures. God does not look forward to having people be tortured in an eternal hell.

All of God’s attention is focused on bringing us life. God looks at us and grieves when we are stubborn and reject him. Jesus used the father of the prodigal son as an image of God who stands and looks down the road and is ready to run to greet us when we repent and return to him. The father did not greet his son with a big stick so he could whack him. He threw a feast to celebrate his return.

God spoke through his prophet Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 33:11)
‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

When God looks at you, when God looks at people you love, when God looks at humans he created in his image, he looks with love. He longs to have us turn to him, surrender to him and be set free. He grieves when we make bad choices. He weeps when he sees us do things that hurt others, hurt ourselves.

God has a very emotional relationship with us and his love for us is at the center of all he does.

God is not a bully who enjoys whacking us with a big stick. God is not a benevolent old grandfather who sits in a rocking chair and says kind things. God is passionate and active in our lives. God is love and God is just. It is his love and justice that led him to sacrifice himself for our good.

Surrender this morning to the God of love and justice who loves you, will keep loving you, who will never stop loving you.

The kingdom of God is not an exclusive club. All are welcome. Repent and believe. Be restored. Become more human. Enter into life that will last for an eternity.