The Good News is that I need to Fear God
Acts 10: 34-43: 34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.39“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree,40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
(This is sort of my sermon from Easter Sunday preached at Wagin and Dumbleyung Anglican churches. I say ‘sort of’ as I don’t read a script but have some slim notes and just go for it.)
What an amazing day Easter Day is, when we recognise that the tomb is empty, that Christ is risen!! Hallelujah! And I want to share today some of what I find powerful about the empty tomb and I want to start by looking at verse 36 of Acts 10 which mentions the heart of Christianity as I see it. It reads, ‘36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.’ The key phrase is ‘Good News’ which speaks of the amazing reality that Christ died for our sins so that we might come into the presence of God!
And this story of us being called into the presence of God is told right through the Bible. The Old Testament is full of how God yearns to be close to His chosen people and sadly how repeatedly they reject Him. And so keen is God to connect with His people that he eventually sends His actual son to die on the cross so that our sins may be forgiven so that we might be close to Him. And why is this? God cannot be in the presence of sin, so for us to be close to God requires that we deal with our sin. And this is made possible through the cross and confirmed by the empty tomb!
But why seek to be in the presence of God? This is what I yearn for completely, to be more and more in the presence of God, to increasingly come under God’s will, to be empowered through the Holy Spirit, to walk each moment with Him. So when it says in verse 36, ‘telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ’ the greek behind peace is eirene, which means unity, love, every kind of blessing or good. So to be in the presence of God as explained by the ‘Good News’ is that our sins can be forgiven so that we can be in unity with God, experience His great love and receive every kind of blessing. Oh I so want that!!
Which brings me to my second and final point.
In verse 35 it reads, ‘..but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’ The expression ‘fear him’ is fascinating as it isn’t so much talking about being the fear we have if we say found ourselves faced with a tiger in the wild, but is more talking about awe, being in awe of God, in particular being in awe of God’s presence among us. And ‘awe’ actually means we realise who we are in relation to God. It is massively important to know who we are in relation to God. I know I am a sinner, I know I struggle each day, and in knowing this I reach out to Christ and seek forgiveness, seek His strength each day. I am incomplete without God.
I am a city boy presently living on my wife’s parent’s property in country Western Australia, and my wife’s parents are farmers. When I am out helping my father in law with jobs, I am acutely aware that I am a very poor farmer. My father in law has been a farmer his whole life and is just amazing at it. Whereas I have very soft hands and find it all a bit of a mystery. I am in awe of his talent and experience and I know what I am capable of and don’t try and be a farmer. I know who I am in relation to my father in law and I know where I need his help with a task on the farm. In the same way I know who I am in relation to God, and where I need God’s help in life. And that is why the resurrection is just so unbelievably important: I realise who I am, I realise I need to face my sin and find forgiveness, so I can be in God’s presence and receive the love and support I need. Oh that is cool.
The first two verses of Psalm 36 explain it a different way:
An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.
To flatter yourself is actually to not really understand who you are. You are deluded in your capabilities and this leads to a lack of the fear of God and to sin. Our task is to know who we are, to undertake a brutally honest assessment of ourselves, and from this to realise how much we need Jesus, how much we need the forgiveness brought about by the cross and confirmed by the resurrection. It is essential that we yearn to be in the presence of God so that we might draw on His strength, and fulfil His plans for our lives.
So know who you are, be in awe of God, recognise how much you need Christ, seek forgiveness often and yearn to be in the presence of God. Christ is risen, oh yes, He is so risen – Hallelujah!
God bless ya!
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