Rags to riches. Come-from-behind wins. The underdog who succeeds. Who doesn’t love stories like these?
Yet I know for every rags-to-riches story there is one that goes from riches-to-rags. A come-from-behind victory means someone who was in the lead ended up defeated. And not every underdog succeeds.
I’m drawn to stories like these because I want to believe in possibilities. There is a common thread of hope that runs through each of them. I’m drawn to them because I want to be reminded that defeat isn’t inevitable.
In some ways, each of our stories are different:
- Where you went to school
In many ways, each of our stories also share common components:
- We want to be loved
- We want to feel accepted
- We want to have a sense of purpose
- We also share a common struggle to make sense out of life
The thing we have most in common is a common problem – it’s called human nature. As hard as we try, none of us are perfect. We make mistakes and hope that they’re not fatal.
At some point, each of us comes to realize that we are separated from the one who made us and wants to be in a relationship with us.
For some, that might not bother you. For others, you might try to replace the need for God with something or someone else.
Or you start a search, hoping to find God.
The good news: God doesn’t want you to be separated from him. Today’s passage is about a God who initiates contact with us and how we respond to his invitation.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “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 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” — Acts 2:36-39
In the earlier part of this passage, Peter has been making the case that Jesus was no ordinary person. Who concludes by asking, what does the death and resurrection of Jesus demand from us?
It calls us to change our way of thinking – that’s called repentance.
The word repent refers to a changed mind or a new understanding. It’s more than feeling sorry for what you’ve done. It’s saying, “I’m going to change the thinking that got me in this trouble to begin with.”
Peter also tells his audience to be baptized “in the name of Jesus.”
One indicator that we have changed our way of thinking is that we understand Jesus differently. We see him not as just another teacher or philosopher but Lord and Savior.
We begin to realize that only Jesus can release us from the weight of our sins. Our shame, regret, and sorrow — these are weighty burdens to carry around. In the act of baptism, we get to experience in a personal way the resurrection of Jesus. New life emerges from death.
As the Israelites were escaping the oppression of Egypt, they ran into an obstacle – the Red Sea. But God parted the waters and opened a way for the people to escape from slavery.
Baptism is a physical reminder that through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God has provided a way out for us as well.
We also receive the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our life.
This is the same Spirit of power that Jesus had promised would come. Peter knew what Jesus knew – we would need help!
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” — Acts 2:40
And you thought we were living in the first corrupt generation!
If you go back in history, everyone has always realized there was something wrong with world. Things are not working the way they should be. Why?
- Plato = matter is evil. Our bodies are evil.
- Rousseau = people are born good but are corrupted by society.
- Karl Marx = unjust economic systems.
- Sigmund Freud = traumatic childhood experiences.
- Edward Wilson = the problem is our genetics.
Everybody has their own idea. The gospel story tells us that all of these theories of what’s wrong with the world are just symptoms of deeper problem. The problem is our sin has separated us from God.
The question is “how do you close the gap?” In truth, there is no ladder we could build that would reach God
But we don’t need to build a ladder because God reached down for us. Peter had defined the problem and offered the solution. But they still had to accept it and submit to it.
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. — Acts 2:41
The message of Jesus is not like attending a movie and saying at the end, “That was a great story! I really enjoyed that!” Then you go on living the same as you did before.
Through Jesus, God has done everything necessary to fix your problem. His solution is full and complete and completely free.
Think of it this, God has presented you with a gift. What do you do when someone gives you a gift? If you pay for it, it’s no longer a gift but a transaction. The right thing to do is to simply accept it. You don’t say, “But I really wanted a different color.”
You accept it and say, “Thank you!”
Here’s the thing: some of you have never accepted God’s offer. You’ve heard about it, considered it, but you’ve left it on the table.
The best offer in the world is meaningless if you walk away from it.