Cut to the Heart

Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 2:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 2 (Select vv. ESV).

Background

During the time Jesus Christ was still on the earth, before he had gone back to heaven to be with the Father, he told his disciples that he was leaving them, but that he would not leave them comfortless. He would send them a comforter, the Holy Spirit, who was then with them, but who would now be in them. He told them, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (Jn. 14:26).

After Jesus left the earth to go back to the Father, after about 40 days, I think it was, he sent the promised Holy Spirit. All of Christ’s followers who were present on the Day of Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in the languages of the people who were present that day. The people, who were from many different places, heard the disciples declaring the wonders of God in their own languages. Some of the people were amazed at what they were hearing, and so they wondered what it all meant. Others, however, made fun of them, and they accused them of being drunk with wine.

So, Peter stood up and addressed the crowd. He stated that these men were not drunk, but that what the people were witnessing was a fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had spoken. In the last days God would pour out his Spirit on all people, and they would dream dreams and see visions and they would prophesy – both men and women. And, then he went on to tell the people about Jesus, who he was, and what he did. He told the people about what they did, too. He told them that God had made Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord (God) and Christ (Messiah), i.e. that they had killed their Lord. Yet, he let them know that this happened by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge, and that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and that he was now at the right hand of God, as he had said he would be.

What Shall We Do? (vv. 37-41)

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?” 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. 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.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart. They were grieved in their spirits, sorrowful, and troubled over what they had just heard. The Holy Spirit of God had spoken to their hearts, had convicted them of sin, and had drawn them to respond to the message of the gospel with faith. This is the kind of heart response to the preaching of the gospel that should accompany those who believe on Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. Nonetheless, so many people today, who claim to be Christians and saved from their sins, never had such a heart response to God and to his gospel, because the gospel they heard preached was absent of the power of the Holy Spirit, and absent of the power of the cross and conviction of sin.

So, they asked Peter what they should do. He told them first of all that they needed to repent of their sins. To repent literally means to have a change of mind, i.e. to think differently afterwards (source: biblehub.com). In scripture, the word repent is primarily used in the context of being sorrowful over sin to the point of turning away from the sin, of forsaking idols, and turning to God to follow him in obedience. When Jesus commissioned Paul to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he told him that he was to open blinded eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they could receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18).

Secondly, Peter told them that they needed to be baptized. Now, this is a controversial verse (verse 38), because our English translation implies that water baptism is required for salvation. So, how do we reconcile this? Well, it helps to know a little Greek, but we must also compare scripture with scripture, to see if this is consistent throughout the New Testament, with regard to the preaching of the gospel of our salvation, and to what is required of us. The Greek word translated here as “for” (as in “for the forgiveness of sins”) can also be translated as “because of,” “with reference or respect to,” or “on account of.” Yet, the Greek Word “eis” also has a strong meaning of “to a particular purpose or result” (biblehub.com). So, there are many different viewpoints and beliefs as to the meaning.

So, then we look to scripture to see if this is consistent teaching. Yet, even this subject is controversial, depending upon how scripture is interpreted. But, in the book of Acts we read that there were people who believed in Jesus, received the Holy Spirit, and then they were baptized with water (See: Ac. 10:47). If water baptism is necessary for salvation, then this could not have happened. And, then we have Paul making a distinction between the preaching of the gospel and water baptism, where he said that Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel (See: 1 Co. 1:17).

So, what are we to conclude from all this? I believe, from what I have studied, that water baptism is not required for salvation, but that it is to follow salvation as an outward symbol of our inward faith, and as a testimony to God’s saving grace in our lives. It is to symbolize that belief in Jesus means we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). So, immersion is the recommended mode of baptism.

If we examine the scriptures carefully, with regard to our salvation, we learn that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is really the essence of the gospel of our salvation – to be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so we might receive forgiveness of sins. It is a heart transformation. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we are liars. Paul said that if we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity. Yes, we should follow our Lord in water baptism, but it is the baptism of the heart (death to sin and resurrection to life in Christ) that matters for eternity, i.e. to be saved from this “crooked generation.”

Teaching and Fellowship (vv. 42-47)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of our lives, in death to sin, and in resurrection to new life in Christ, we are filled (indwelt and empowered) with the Holy Spirit of God, who is Christ in us, the hope of glory. Not only is he used of God to convict of sin, and to transform our hearts from darkness to light, but he lives within each one of us to teach, counsel, warn, encourage, guide, direct, convict, and to urge us to live lives consistent with our profession of faith – all in the working and power of God (the Holy Spirit) within us.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we now enter into relationship with our living God, who is in us, and who is living his life out through us, as we surrender our lives over to him and to his will for our lives. Daily we now meet with our Lord in worship of him, in fellowship, in prayer and in the study of His Word. We listen to him speak his words to our hearts, and then we act on what we hear, and we obey what his word teaches us. And, as his followers, we are now included in his body, the church, which is a living organism with Christ as her head. And, via the Holy Spirit now living within each one of us who are part of his body, we enter into spiritual fellowship with one another. We are, thus, encouraged to meet together with one another for the teaching of the Word, for prayer, for fellowship, and for communion.

Yet, this is not to be just rituals we perform once a week, and then go about our normal lives the rest of the time. The believers in Christ met daily in the temple courts and from house to house. And, they were devoted (zealous, dedicated, and committed) to these things – to the teaching and preaching of the Word; to fellowship, prayer and communion (the breaking of bread). So, our lifestyles should be about fellowship with our Lord and with his body, and about learning from his Word and obeying what it teaches us. And, our lifestyles should be about ministering to the needs of the saints, and encouraging one another in our faith, and in using the spiritual gifts imparted to us of the Spirit of God for the edification, instruction and spiritual growth and development of the Lord’s body, his church.

When the Lord’s body, his church, functions as he intended her to function individually and collectively, she will have an impact on this world for Jesus Christ, and many will be drawn to Jesus Christ, and the Lord will add to his church those who are being saved. Yet, we will also be persecuted for our faith and for our testimonies for Jesus Christ, too. Jesus said that we would be hated and mistreated as he was hated and mistreated, and that many of us would be put to death for our faith in Jesus Christ and for the sake of his gospel of salvation. Yet, we are not to fear what men will do to us, but we must remain strong in our faith and keep on sharing his gospel, so that many others will know Christ and his grace, and his salvation.

His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014

Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.

Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.

Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.

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