September 2009


Holy Spirit

On Pentecost, while anyone who’s anyone is in Jerusalem celebrating the day when Moses recieved the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai, Jesus sends his Spirit to empower an incredible sermon that would save 3,000 people. 

The Spirit comes in no inconspicuous way, and enabled miraculous linguistics among the believers to speak to all of the Jewish pilgrims in their own language the “mighty works of God” (2:11).  Peter, taking lead again, assures everyone that they are not drunk but rather, they are experiencing a fulfillment of prophecy made in Joel 2.  It is not until verse 22 that Peter proclaims the gospel.  It is here that we are going to camp.  Why?  Because in all things, the Spirit is the means for which the gospel is proclaimed.  The Spirit is never an end in himself, he exists to bear witness to the Son (1:8).

Peter kept it about Jesus.

Jesus was crucified by sinners as planned by God for our redemption (2:23)

– God raised Jesus up from the dead, because Jesus was too glorious to stay dead; as planned by God for our redemption (2:24)

– Because Jesus went to sit on his throne, we get the Holy Spirit; as planned by God for our redemption (2:33)

– Jesus is both Lord and Christ. No, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, it is a title meaning God’s anointed one. (2:36)

– Sinners crucified Jesus (2:26)

The response…

– Repent! 

-Be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins

– receive the Holy Spirit

A few words…

I believe that Peter’s messsage was relevant to those who were in the crowd at Pentecost.  I also believe that it is still relevant to those we encounter every day in our lives.  The bullet points provide a skeleton of the Gospel.  For the Jews, it was appropriate to fill in the meat from their Scriptures and how Jesus fulfilled them.  Still true for today, however, most run-of-the-mill lost soul these days won’t care because 1) They will have no clue as to what you are talking about when you quote the book of Joel and 2) the Gospel skeleton can be meated up with meat from today that people existing 2000 years after the fact and a hemisphere away will understand and be “cut to the heart” (2:37). 

It is our job to engage lost people with love enough that seeks to strive to make them understand the good news about Jesus and his redemption of those who put their faith in his finished work.  The apostle Paul gives an example in Acts 17:22-34 of engaging non-Jews with the gospel message using passages from their own secular poets! Why?  Because they have no clue as to who the prophet Joel is.  But they can get Jesus.  Let us not seek to avoid culture, but instead, let us engage it and redeem it and use it for advancing the gospel.  Let us fill up that gospel skeleton with meat from 2009.

We talk about showing the love of Christ… what is more loving that sharing the truth that there is salvation from God’s wrath in him.  It is much more loving to share that message than to merely hold a door for someone, or to say “God bless” when someone sneezees.  Get out there Cornerstone!

Think about it!

– Do you have any lost friends?  Why not?

– When you share your testimony, is the main character you or Jesus?

– What “meat” can you use for Jesus’ sake that your friends would understand?

– Role play with friends or family sharing the gospel to a non-believer.

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In this passage we see how God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).  Jesus star trekked up to heaven, and the believers are still waiting for the promise of the Spirit, yet the Triune God works in them during this time.  We see what theologians call regeneration occurring here.  After four gospels of hearing about how lame the disciples were and how good they were at missing the point, there is finally a positive light shed on these guys in this passage.  And the author, Luke, made sure that his readers knew that it was the work of God and not themselves.  Regeneration is the visible shifting of affections and behaviors from sin onto Jesus.  Regeneration is the work of the Spirit in a brand new believer. 

We read that they devoted themselves to prayer with one accord, and that Peter, after a major fall-out by denying Jesus, has turned and strengthened the brothers (Luke 22:32), “Peter stood up among the brothers” (Acts 1:15).  This is an act of God the Holy Spirit. 

From there, Peter debriefs the past week or so with the believers.  Totally stressed out, Peter comforts the believers in saying, “Brothers, the Scripture HAD to be fulfilled…” (1:16).  What God says is always fulfilled.  Always.  This is the unwavering purpose of God the Holy Spirit.  This is confirmed in John’s Gospel, “Jesus knew from the beginning…who it was who would betray him” (Jn. 6:64).  It is a huge comfort to know that all things, good or seemingly bad, are within God’s perfect plan for his ultimate glory.  When bad things happen in our world, we can say, “this is really hard, but I can rest in God’s plan that will work out for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28)”.  That is the plea that Peter was putting forth for his hurting and confused friends.

From there, the story goes on to tell of another radical trust in God’s plan by casting lots for a new twelfth apostle.  We talked about how casting lots is a lot like rolling dice and trusting that God will guide them.  By casting lots, the apostles left the decision up to God.  We can still trust in God’s plan this way when facing decisions without casting lots, by praying and trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Ponder this…

Are you trusting in God’s perfect plan?  Or are you holding on to some anger because you think your plan is better than God’s?

Can you think of a time, before you became a Christian, when the Spirit regenerated your heart to respond to the Gospel?

What is God calling you to trust in his plan for?

“Moral”-focussed or Spirit-led?

     Our tendency as inhabitants of the Christian sub-culture is to focus on petty morals-made-law in order to impress other believers instead of relying on the Spirit to save souls.  When I talk about morals,  I am not talking about sin-issues such as cheating on tests, watching unfruitful or nasty movies, or cussing for the sake of cussing—those are sin-issues not moral issues.  When I talk about morals, I am referring to those things that Christians “should” do, according to other moralistic Christians.  These laws consist of only listening to Christian music, never missing an opportunity to “bless” someone who sneezes, only allowing yourself to watch movies that are animated for fear of corruption from the “real” world, only wearing clothes with Christian catch-phrases on them, etc.  I’m guessing you know what I am talking about.  Remember the distinction between sin-issues and petty moral-issues.  Have the mind-set of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. 

Now, what does a Spirit-led life invovle?

“You will recieve power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The Spirit-led life is going to make disciples of Jesus Christ wherever you go! 

How?

Romans 1:16 says, “[The Gospel] is the power of God for salvation…”  1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “[the cross] is the power of God.”

The Holy Spirit + Gospel = an empowered follower of Jesus ready to take the world for Jesus

Questions for parents…

Are you modeling to your teenager a Spirit-led life?

-Is the emphasis in your house the cross or petty works?

Additional questions…

What petty morals do you need to repent of?

– Are you relying on Jesus’ act on the cross or on your “good works”.

– Is the Spirit nudging you to something radical that you have been too scared to acknowledge?

– How can you spend your time training and preparing for a life of mission?

– How can you live out the mission of the Spirit (Acts 1:8) right now?

“In the first book, O Theophilas, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). 

Point #1) The book of Acts is the continuation of what Jesus began by his finished work on the cross (John 19:30).  There is nothing lacking in Jesus’ death.  Luke refers to that as the beginning because Jesus is the one who empowers the continued spread of the Gospel as seen in Acts. 

“…he had given commands through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2)

Point #2) Jesus did not leave his apostles without direction and he doesn’t leave us like freshly decapitated chickens either.  He gave us commands and put us on mission: be faithful witnesses of Jesus to the entire world, not neglecting our local context; we are to make disciples and not just converts, we are to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and we are to teach the Bible (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

“…he presented himself alive…” (Acts 1:3)

Point #3) Jesus authenticated the message and mission that he sent his followers on by overcoming sin and death and presenting himself as the risen Lord, much like Neo in The Matrix.  Jesus presented himself in a real, flesh and bones, body.  It was not just a ressurection of the hope inside each and all of us.  As positive a message as that sounds, this one is greater: Jesus’ bodily resurrection proved that our sins are truly forgiven by a God who has the authority to not only forgive, but also to take his life back after a brutal death on a cross.  That is a God worthy of worshipping.

Questions to ponder…

Are you letting Jesus do the power acts, or are you striving to do things within your own power?

Has Jesus made known to you a more specific mission he has for you? (These can change as life changes)

– Are you sitting around when Jesus has already proven his victory and gave us a clear mission?  How can you get out there (into your neighborhood or the nations) and share the gospel?

We are embarking on a huge endeavor as a youth group on Wednesday nights.  We will be going through the book of Acts for the entire year.  This is a book that will challenge us, inform us, enable us, and increase our affections for Jesus.  I am excited to see God work through his word. 

This book was chosen based on the direction that I believe God is leading this youth group. I beleive God wants to create in us an attitude of repentance, a mind for ministry, and hearts for worship.  Keeping in mind that we are a youth group that takes Jesus, his Word, and each other seriousy, Acts seems to be the perfect book of the Bible to equip us and guide us toward that direction.  Check back for lesson overviews to come!

PraxisYouth.wordpress.com exists to aid in the application and continued meditation on the lessons we talk about on Wednesday nights.  Dictionary.com defines praxis as, “practice, as distinguished from theory; application or use, as of knowledge or skills”.  The aim of this blogsite is to inform the family and parents of what your youth is learning at youth group and how you can take part in increasing the gospel-teaching in the home.  Youth Group is not an entity in itself, but is designed to be an aid to the teaching in the home.  So, parents, let us band together and teach a new generation how to take Jesus seriously, take his word seriously, and take each other seriously. 

The general flow of the blog will be weekly overviews of the lesson from Wednesday night and some questions to pose to your youth.  There will also be occasional announcements and what-nots to keep everyone informed and in the loop.  Enjoy! And may this blog serve as a tool for increasing our affections for Jesus–beyond Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.