Monday, November 30, 2015

When Fear of God Grips Our Hearts

When Fear of God Grips Our Hearts

The historical backdrop for the Apostle Peter’s powerful message on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two is very dynamic in the transition between the Peter that Christ confronted at the Sea of Galilee in John chapter twenty-one.  In that text, we find a spiritually defeated and downcast Peter in the company of six other disciples struggling with the same issues.  We are told in John 21:19 that this whole encounter with Peter was to get Peter to begin to preach and teach the Gospel as he had been trained to do by Jesus. 

In that verse, Jesus also told Peter that he would die a martyrs’ death, but not until “when thou shalt be old.”  In every question of Peter’s sacrificial love for Christ, Peter acknowledge he had a lesser love.  In response to Peter, Jesus said, “feed my lambs,” “feed my sheep” twice, and finally, after telling Peter what death Peter would die, “follow me.”  In other words, Jesus said, be the disciple you were trained to be!
Jesus’ encounter with Peter and the other six disciples most probably was the Sunday (seven days) after the Resurrection.  After forty days of numerous appearances of Jesus to His disciples (Acts 1:3), and just before the ascension of Jesus to Heaven (Acts 1:9-10), the disciples were commanded not to “depart from Jerusalem” and to wait there for the promised baptism with the Spirit (Acts 1:4-6).  They were to wait in an “upper room.”  This place was either in one of the disciple’s households or in the Temple.  Because of the size of the group, the Temple is the most likely place (Luke 24:53) in that this was a common gathering place for the disciples before the crucifixion. 

Arguments that the disciples would have avoided the Temple because of fear of the Jews is spurious. This is especially true in light of the events recorded in Acts chapter two in that the Temple site is where Peter preached to the assembled Jews who gathered there yearly on their Day of Pentecost.  This holy day always fell on the Sunday after the seven Sabbath Days after Passover.

“14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great {idea is a huge, fearful event}and notable {implication is an historically memorial event} day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:14-21).

Peter’s quote from Joel 2:28 and 32 is used to prove that the coming of Messiah Jesus and the events that would follow His coming were all being fulfilled in their present history.  Of course, the prophecy of Joel is what is known in Dispensationalism as an already, not yet fulfillment.  In other words, a partial and temporary fulfillment took place on the Day of Pentecost as proof to the Jews that the disciples of Jesus were the disciples of Messiah Jesus - Jehovah incarnate.  The complete and full fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy will not take place until the second coming of Jesus at the beginning of the Kingdom Age.  We can only imagine the fear generated in the hearts of these Jews as they began to realize they had crucified their promised Messiah.
After Peter’s explanation of the miracles heard by these Jews, God has gotten their attention with the facts.  If you want to see conversions, tell the truth and give the facts.  They are all listening intently.  Their hearts are gripped with fear.  Peter begins to preach and God begins to miraculously translate from Peter’s message given in Greek into seventeen different listed languages.  As we read the words of Peter’s message, it is very important that we see that he did not avoid telling it like it is in order to avoid offending anyone.

Peter was no longer the coward of the eve of the crucifixion.  Peter was filled with the Spirit God and spoke with the power of the Spirit.  Peter was preaching without fear or favor of men because he was hoping and praying for God to bring repentance to accompany the fear in the hearts of these Jews.  Every true Christian needs to understand that we cannot pull the punch on sin and false beliefs if we want God to bring about a knockout blow to the human ego and begin to generate repentance of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

“22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his {Jesus’} soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this {the Holy Spirit}, which ye now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-36).

How dare these pretending preachers leave out the message on the condemnation of sin and self-righteousness?  How dare these wolves in sheep’s clothing stand behind pulpits and tell people their moralities and ritual sacraments are good enough for their redemption?  How dare these hypocrites in clergy-garb stand before those Christ has died to redeem and tell them that sin is no big thing with God?  They distort the character and attributes of God by misrepresenting Him as only a God of love who delights in forgiveness?  They do not say “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).  These are those through whom Satan speaks.  They do not speak for God.
Notice in Acts 2:37-42 that it is not until the question of desperation is generated in the hearts gripped with fear and repentance that Peter responds with the solution to their disparate situation.  These previously self-righteous Jews thought they had been alright with God as long as they kept the Mosaic Covenant.  Now they realized they were party to killing the Promised One.  Acts 2:37 reflects this depth of repentance with the words, “they were pricked in their heart.”  The Greek word translated “pricked” is katanusso (kat-an-oos’-so).  The word means thoroughly pierced.  The conviction of what they had done was a damning like a spear of conviction of their condemnation through their hearts.  They knew they needed to be saved.

“37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for {because of or on the basis of} the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort {there was extended explanation of the Gospel, redemption, and the New Covenant in the Church}, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized {were saved and then baptized}: and the same day there were added unto them {the local church at Jerusalem} about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:37-42).

“What shall we do?”  This is a cry of total desperation and helplessness.  This cry of total desperation and helplessness is always evident when genuine fear and repentance is generated by the facts of condemnation.  Without this, false professions will be experienced and genuine conversion (regeneration) will not take place.  What does genuine conversion look like in a local church and in the lives of individual church members?  Truly born again people who understand the depth of their own depravity, know they cannot make it in the world in their own power.  They know they need the support of a local church of like-minded believers.  They know they need to be held accountable and are willing to covenant with other believers to that end.  They know they need structured and systematic teaching from the Word of God.

“42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

 When we live in a world where few people accept biblical values, live in sin, where pornography and fornication are accepted forms of recreation, we should expect that most of what Christians say or do will be offensive to them.  That is what happens when you “let your light so shine before men.”  The darker our world grows, the brighter every Christian must shine. 

As soon as the world silences your testimony for Christ, you have surrendered.  It is not that they have won.  You have lost!

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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