The Heart of the Christian Message

By May 15, 2016Church

With all of the advances in technology, in many ways we are exponentially more productive.

  • We can read our email while making our morning coffee.
  • We can respond to calls while we walk to lunch.
  • We can carry dozens of electronic books with us anywhere we go.
  • Our smart phones keep us connected to every single thing that is happening every minute of the day.

Ironically, we’ve become increasingly less productive at same time.

I call it the curse of whatever is in front of us at the moment. Things like emails, text messages, Facebook updates, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat …

We are busier than ever but not necessarily more effective at what we’re doing. Here’s why: By focusing on whatever is right in front us we may not be focusing enough on the most important things.

In Forbes Magazine, Margie Warrell put it this way: “In our age of hyper-distraction, many are challenged with staying focused on what matters most.”

There are different ways you could put it …

  • First things first.
  • Keeping the main thing the main thing.
  • Not majoring in minors.

This is not just a personal challenge; it’s also a challenge many businesses face. It is also a challenge the church has faced for 2,000 years.

Our challenge has always been keeping the main thing the main thing.

In many respects, denominations were formed because two groups of people disagreed over what the main thing was … and what it wasn’t!

During our current series at Mountainview we are returning to the birthday of the first church – Acts 2. In historical terms, we’re returning to the source.

Acts 2 began with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, reminding us that the church from the very beginning has been a supernatural movement. The Holy Spirit had enabled the apostles to begin speaking in a variety of foreign languages – which led some in the crowd to make fun of them, accusing them of being drunk.

After explaining they weren’t drunk, Peter launches into a sermon explaining what is happening. He starts by turning to the Old Testament.

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on 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 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.‘ — Acts 2:16-21

According to Peter, what they see happening is all part of God’s larger plan – a plan to redeem and restore what God had created. These events had been predicted by the prophet Joel some 500-600 years before Jesus. What they signified was the dawning of new day.

Next, Peter pivots from Joel to Jesus and shows that what happened to Jesus was not a new story but a continuation of God’s story.

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 … — Acts 2:22-24

In other words, the life of Jesus was no secret to them. They had seen and heard of his mighty works, wonders, and signs. Despite all of that, he was still crucified. This is where it gets interesting.

23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God … — Acts 2:23

When Peter talks about God’s “definite plan” he’s talking about God’s determined purpose. This is a strong word. It literally means that “this was going to happen no matter what you did.” Jesus was going to be crucified regardless of your involvement.

And yet we were involved, for the next part of verse 23 reads … “23 this Jesus you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Make no mistake: It was God’s plan AND we were willing participants.

Yet, that’s not the end of the story:

24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. — Acts 2:24

The resurrection was not God fixing a mistake (“oops, he died”) but making a declaration – Jesus is alive … and you can be, too! To proclaim the resurrection is to proclaim an optimistic way of living. Those of us who live the resurrected life ought to be optimistic as well.

But Peter anticipates a few skeptics in the crowd so he returns to the Old Testament, this time to King David himself.

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.’ 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. 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.”‘ — Acts 2:25-35

Though these words were written by David, he could not have been writing about himself. Why? Because he did die and his body did decay. But not Jesus. He was crucified, dead, and buried … then raised to life!

So how does Peter conclude this first sermon?

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. — Acts 2:36

Jesus wasn’t a criminal. He was more than a captivating speaker.

The main thing for the church is to proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection. The question we need to continually ask is, “Are we keeping the main thing the main thing?”

But what about you on a personal level? Most important question you will ever ask and answer is this: “Who do I believe Jesus is?”

Do I believe he was a liar? A guy with a few good ideas? Or my Lord and Savior?

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Books on the Gospel

To dig a little deeper, I recommend the following books about the heart of the Christian message – the gospel.

Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary

Shaped by the Gospel: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Center Church)

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited