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The Message of the Ambassador

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

SERMON POWERPOINT

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Acts 2-3

The Message of the Ambassador

Five months ago, Pastor Matt asked in a sermon a very basic question, yet a challenging one:   

“What does it mean to be a Christian?”

I like that question.  It forces us to think more richly.  More than simply using words like “Christian”  mindlessly.

This morning I want to ask a similar, foundational question. 

“What is the gospel?”

Can we actually write it out?  Can we explain it to someone else?”

The word “gospel” literally means “Good news.”  Specifically, the gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ.

But to simply say, “The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ,” doesn’t give us all the information we need.    

We are in Week 3 of a sermon series going through a book called “Acts.”  It means, “the acts (or the deeds) of the apostles.” 

It could also be entitled, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” since God’s Spirit is so active and prominent in this book.

Today we are going to read two stories of what Peter said to the crowds about the gospel.  In his stories, we hear what the gospel really is. 

Ambassadors for Christ

When a sinner believes in Jesus Christ, he is given by grace a new relationship with God Almighty.  He is reconciled to God through Christ.

And he is given a whole new identity in life.  A new purpose.  A job description.

2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ.  We represent him.

Former Iowa governor Terry Branstad is the U.S. Ambassador to China.  He lives and works in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Two years ago, my wife was in China, and a small group of Americans she was with were able to have dinner with Ambassador Branstad.  She enjoyed that immensely.)

An Ambassador like Ambassador Branstad doesn’t represent himself.  He speaks to another nation on behalf of our nation.  Our President. 

We are ambassadors.  We are ambassadors of a kingdom.  An entirely different sort of kingdom:

 The kingdom of God.

And we are called to represent God and his Son, Jesus Christ, to people all over the world.   To people who belong to another kingdom, the kingdom of this world.  The kingdom of darkness. 

As Jesus’ representatives, we have a message to the kingdom of this world.  What is that message?

The message is the gospel of the kingdom.  The gospel…the good news… of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “The kingdom of God is near;  repent and believe in the gospel.”

So this morning we will examine what is this gospel?

What is the Message of the Ambassador?

What did the Apostles like Peter and Paul, the first Ambassadors, say about Jesus Christ?

This has great significance for us.

Many of us are intimidated by the word “evangelism.”  We read about the Apostles in Acts boldly and wisely speaking.   And we think, “Oh, I can’t do that.  I don’t know what to say.  I’m not articulate like Peter.  Plus, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of what others think.  I’m afraid someone will ask a question I don’t have an answer to.”

But we will find that Peter simply recounts the historical events that God promised over centuries in the Scriptures. 

And Peter simply says, “It has all finally come true.  What God promised to us through Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets.  It has all come true.”  There is a simplicity and beauty to what Peter declares.

So let’s learn from what he says. 

Acts 2 

Let’s read in Acts 2. 

Vs. 14-21

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words…

Then Peter quotes from the prophet Joel about these days.  (Matt read this last week, so I won’t.)

First, as an aside, this is the first declaration of the gospel recorded in Acts.

Two weeks ago in my studying, I read through all 28 chapters of Acts.

I noted every passage (25 in all) where Luke the Author of Acts wrote either someone’s direct words of the gospel (like Peter spoke here), or simply an indirect reference to what someone said about the gospel.  It was a fascinating study to see the uniqueness of each gospel proclamation as well as the similarities. 

For example, In those 25 passages, I was surprised how frequently the prophets are mentioned as part of the gospel.

Here Peter quotes from the prophet Joel to make a point about the gospel.

Vs. 22-23

 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Not only does the prophet Joel testify to this good news of Jesus Christ, God himself testified in physical realities through signs and wonders.  Miracles unexplainable except by acknowledge of God’s doing. 

Then Peter points out the sin of the listeners:  You crucified Jesus.

And more, this all happened according to God’s glorious, eternal plan:  “Delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”   God clearly planned this, and the prophets prove this.

This is astonishing. 

Vs. 24-28

 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Another witness to Christ:  King David himself.  Basically, David prophesied of the resurrection.  Death could not hold Jesus Christ in the grave.

The resurrection is life to the world, conquering mankind’s worst enemy:  DEATH.

And the resurrection is astonishing proof—perhaps the greatest miracle in history—that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. 

Vs. 29-32

 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

All the Jews in Jerusalem knew quite well who Jesus was.  They knew quite well his horrific murder just 50 days earlier outside Jerusalem on a hill with two criminals crucified on either side of him.

Now to have these disciples testifying that he had risen from the dead…. Well, this is news beyond their imagination.  How can anyone rise from the dead to never die again? 

The resurrection is a central part of the gospel message.

Vs. 33-35

 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’

Jesus Christ has not only risen from the dead, he has ascended into heaven in his eternal, glorified, incorruptible body. 

And he has been exalted to sit enthroned at the right hand of God Almighty.

There is something extraordinary and other-worldly about Jesus. 

Vs. 36

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Though the Roman and Jewish leaders were ultimately responsible for murdering the Messiah, the Jews in Jerusalem were also complicit.

No one had defended Jesus.  No one.  Not even the disciples.  Many had participated in the crowd shouting, “Crucify!  Crucify!”  And many had gawked at the Lord hanging on the cross outside of Jerusalem.

So Peter does not shy away from pointing out their sins against God and his Promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. 

Vs. 37

 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

This is a beautiful response.  The Holy Spirit convicts them in their hearts of their sin and their ignorance. 

They  ask the most wonderful question in the world:  “What shall we do?”

Vs. 38-40

 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Peter now tells them what to do:  “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

“And not only will you receive forgiveness, you will receive the Holy Spirit.”

“For everyone whom the Lord calls to himself will receive new life.”

So simple, yet such glorious news. 

And the outcome of that gospel sermon is in vs. 41:

Vs. 41

 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

3000 people found life in Jesus Christ that day!  What a revival just 50 days…7 weeks… after Jesus rose from the dead.

Acts 3

Remember, we are seeking to answer, “What is the gospel?”

Now let’s read a second proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom.

Look at Acts 3:11–26 where  Peter speaks to the Jews just moments after healing a man in Jerusalem.

Vs. 11-12

While he [this healed man] clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s.

 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?

Peter quickly gives credit to God.  How could any mere mortal heal a lame man?

Vs. 13-15a

 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.

As in Peter’s proclamation in Chapter 2, he points to Scriptures.

The Jews knew quite well that the foundation of their nation and their relationship with God is through the fathers of their faith:  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

From Genesis through Jesus’ days is all part of one Great Story. 

And the more I read the Bible year after year, the more impressed I am with this book.  Though there are 66 books within it, it is actually ONE BOOK with an overarching story about Jesus Christ.

Then he points out the hard truth:  that the Jews denied any interest or confidence in Jesus, and their denial led to Christ’s murder.  Quite bluntly…. “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.”  The Author of life.  The very source of life itself is Jesus Christ.  And he could not be held in the grave.

Vs. 15b

15 …To this we are witnesses.

I love this simple statement:  Peter says, “We are witnesses.  We are witnesses of what you have done to Jesus.

But most importantly, we are witnesses that God raised up Jesus from the dead.”

Vs. 16-??

 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

This miracle of healing happened because of faith in Jesus Christ.

Vs. 17

 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.

Here he points out their sin, their complicity in the murder of Jesus Christ. 

Vs. 18-21

18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Peter again speaks of repentance.  He again speaks of OT prophecies.  And he speaks of the Second Coming, which is a vital part of the gospel:  “The time for restoring all things.”

Now skip down to vs. 26

Vs. 26

 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

The message of the ambassador is just pure good.

It is a message of blessing from God Almighty.

It brings the blessing of turning man from evil.   In our thirst for sin, we don’t want to turn from it.  But when we do, we find the blessing of God upon us. 

Summarize Peter’s Announcements

So in these two chapters— only a few months after Jesus Christ ascended into heaven– we have two lengthy accounts of Peter announcing the gospel to his fellow Jews.  He simply announced what he had seen and heard.  At its core, this is all evangelism is:  announcing what we have seen and heard. 

So what was the announcement?

What is this news of the kingdom of God? 

What is the message of the ambassador?

What do we learn from Peter?  What should WE announce to the world around us?

This will answer our question at the outset:  WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

Let me offer a framework.  Here is how I would outline what Peter said.

(This framework may be helpful to you, so consider taking notes.)

  1. Jesus Christ is no ordinary person.

Jesus died.  Rose from the dead.  Ascended into heaven.  Is coming again.

This is the core of what Jesus accomplished.

He performed extraordinary miracles.

He fulfilled many OT prophecies. 

His names inform us of his uniqueness.

He is called the Lord.  The Author of life. 

The long-awaited Messiah.  The Holy and Righteous One.

We can say such things out of rote.  Somewhat mindlessly.  But this is the essence of what we believe. 

If we believe this, we are a true Christian.

If we do not believe this, we are not a true Christian.

It’s not complicated.  It’s deep and rich and glorious.  But it’s not complicated.

  • He came to bring life.

Peter speaks of forgiveness, sins blotted out. 

He speaks of life, hope, blessing, restoration, refreshment.

And he speaks of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

This is all a gracious and astonishing gift. 

  • Many witnesses testified of him. 

All these witnesses confirm the historical truth about Jesus Christ. 

Apostles were eyewitnesses.  (And we know from 1 Corinthians 15, more than 500 people saw him after the resurrection.)

The OT prophets witnessed of Jesus.

In many of the 25 passages in Acts that I studied, this is an important point.  I was actually surprised how often it is mentioned. 

Jesus fulfilled ancient Scriptures that Israel had been longing for for centuries.  Their dreams of a Messiah and Savior and King have finally been fulfilled.

The story of Jesus Christ is not some make believe fairy tale.  It is founded upon solid, recorded history verified by many witnesses. 

  • Sin was pointed out.

Peter boldly announced that the people had denied and even murdered Jesus Christ.

Jesus didn’t come to simply give us a nice life.  He came to deal with sin.  Peter speaks about this. 

  • Warnings were issued.

Peter warned of destruction.  Unforgiveness before God.  Eternal consequences face all who continue to reject Christ.

  • Response was asked for. 

Peter pleaded with them:  Repent, turn from your dark ways, believe, call on the name of the Lord. 

This is how I summarize the essence of what Peter spoke in those first few days after Jesus Christ ascended into heaven.

This is the gospel.

This is his announcement to the people.

We could say that the essence of Peter’s announcement is Jesus.  Jesus is the announcement.   What he did.  Who he is.  Why we need him. 

Application

So I want to finish up by answering the question, “So what do I do with this?”

If we are true Christians, true believers in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, then a vital part of our new identity in Jesus is that we are his Ambassadors.  We belong to another kingdom.  We are citizens of heaven.

But we dwell here in this foreign land called earth.  And we represent Jesus.  We speak for him.  we do his will.

So what should we do?

Let me offer three simple but important applications.

  1. Know a basic framework of the gospel like Peter spoke.

What I outlined is not the only way to announce the story of Jesus.  When I read through the other 23 passages like this, I saw there are a variety of ways to say all this.  But having some type of framework can be helpful. 

  • Know your own story as it connects to faith in this historical story of Jesus.

If you have truly believed in Jesus, you have a story.  That makes you a witness of Jesus, too.

Know it.   Write it out.  Make sure it’s clear in your mind first.  Then make sure it’s clear to others. 

Both the story as described by Peter and your own story are part of the message as an Ambassador.

  • Announce Jesus. 

You and I can simply tell what we know.  What we have seen and heard.  I don’t do this often enough. 

We are to be announcers of some historical events.  Without exaggerating, the most important, far-reaching, world-impacting events in human history.

Farther reaching than COVID.  More impactful than a World War.

Those are both very bad news.

But what we have is such GOOD news.  Great news. 

And we can start with something simple:  Ask ourselves, “Who is one person… just one…that I can announce Jesus to?”

Summary

What a great privilege and responsibility we have. 

All of us who have believed in Jesus Christ have been given a new identity and a calling:  To be Jesus’ ambassadors.

We represent the King of kings, Jesus Christ, to the kingdom of this world.

We speak for the King and do what he says to do… that the world may see, believe, and so live.