Sermon – January 26, 2020 – Stewardship 3

Printable PDF:  1-26-2020 Stewardship 3 Sermon

Vicar Lindemann † ~  Stewardship 3 Sermon  ~†  January 26, 2020

For Generations to Come

17“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus….24“Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” – Acts 3: 17-20, 24-26

You are standing on the shoulders of giants. That’s one of my favorite pictures; are you familiar with it? You have Jack (and the beanstalk) standing next to a giant. Which one can see farther? The giant, obviously. Until, Jack climbs up the giant, stands on his shoulders and now he can see just as far. You have Dad and his toddler. Who can see over the tall fence? Dad clearly. Until, Dad puts the toddler on his shoulders and now she can see even farther than he can. By themselves, the little ones have no chance to see, but with the giants, they can see as far if not farther. This picture is also used for knowledge. Isaac Newton said that he was standing on the shoulders of giants, when he made one of his scientific discoveries – implying that he would never have figured it out without the discoveries made before him. You are standing on the shoulders of giants. You have stood on the shoulders of your parents, or grandparents or whoever has shown you how to live in this world. And you have someone who has shown you how to stand on the shoulders of the giant of God’s Word. Peter also had this, and he wanted to share it. Early in Peter’s ministry, he appreciated how important it is to make known what God has done for generations to come. His message is to promote awareness for the next generation and to set an example for the next generation.

  1. Promote awareness for the next Generation.

Peter and John had just healed the lame man. In the verses just before ours, the disciples passed by a beggar who couldn’t walk. Instead of giving him money, Peter said “In the name of Jesus, get up and walk.” And the man went walking and leaping and praising God. The people were amazed and they all came running. Peter saw this as a great opportunity to promote awareness for the next generation. He wanted to show them that what had happened actually wasn’t as amazing as the amazing things God did in Jesus. But then Peter reminds the people of what happened to Jesus. “You handed him over, you disowned him; you killed the author of Life. But, God raised him from the dead, and we saw it happen. Faith in Jesus made this man strong again.”

But Peter did not come to bring fire and brimstone to these people. He wanted to bring them up to stand on the shoulders of giants with him. He showed them Jesus. Now he tells them what it means for them. “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.” What is Peter trying to say here? I know you were ignorant, and you didn’t know what you were doing, so it’s ok? No, ignorance is no excuse for sin. Is he saying I know it wasn’t really you, it was your leaders who killed Jesus, so no worries? No, they are both equally guilty.

This is more like trying to start a lawnmower for the first time, when you crank on the string and you can’t get it to start. You try and try at different speeds and methods, with nothing happening until finally even if you got it started, it’s too late now. And someone walks up and sees your frustration and says, “You really have no idea do you?” And he flips the lawnmower to on, gives it one simple pull and it fires up. Just like you had no idea that you needed to turn the lawnmower on before you pulled the string, these Israelites had no idea what they were doing with Jesus when he came to save them.

The people didn’t think they were ignorant. They thought they were doing fine, they thought they knew how to start the lawnmower; that’s what their leaders told them, too. They thought they knew God. They thought that since they had Abraham as their father, that’s all they needed. They thought they were pleasing God. They thought that if they followed all the laws as best as they could, that God would be happy with that. They thought that they had nothing more to pass onto the next generation than facts. But they were so ignorant. Their ignorance about what God’s Word means for them caused them to commit sin after sin after sin, and, as Peter pointed out, to even disown the Savior that God had promised in his Word.

Peter wanted to remove their ignorance, and he wanted them to be aware of this, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” Now that you know, repent! Peter gives them God’s sweet Gospel. Even though they were ignorant and their sins should have stayed on them, Peter gives them God’s amazing invitation to repent. Their minds are changed with God’s work, and now what they were ignorant of was revealed to them. Jesus was appointed for them, even though they didn’t deserve him. Through Jesus, their sins could be forgiven and they could know the truth about God. Then times of refreshing would come from the Lord. They would know that Jesus forgives them.

How aware is this generation? How aware will the next generation be? Maybe you have a feeling that it’s not too bad, certainly better than the last generation. Maybe you are less optimistic when you talk to a younger person about Ancient Rome, or an older person about Disney+ and they have no idea what you are talking about. We don’t like to be in the dark about anything. As soon as we find out there’s something we don’t know, don’t we want to find out as soon as possible? If everyone knows who Wilford Brimley is except for me, I’m going to google him within ten seconds to find out.

But what about the things we think we know about? That’s a little harder to get excited to learn about, because I already know that stuff. I know about Jesus, that’s all I need, right? Surely the people who go to church are aware of God, aren’t they? You have all the facts!

But church isn’t all about facts. Your walk with God in this life is not over when you collect enough Bible facts. We promote awareness for the next generation to show everyone what God’s Word really means for them. The Israelites thought that all they needed were the facts of God’s Word, but didn’t know what they meant. To avoid ignorance, we strive to be spiritually aware. That’s why it’s important for us to encourage new confirmands to continue to attend church and Bible class. That’s why it’s important for me to come back and here the same story. Because even if it’s the same old story, the Holy Spirit interacts with you in new ways through his word. We need to treasure our interaction with God’s Word, not take it for granted. When we take our own knowledge of God for granted, then we become like those Israelites to whom Peter preached. We start to think that since our parents were Christians, we have all we need. Or that if we try hard enough, we will be good enough. And our ignorance causes us to commit sin after sin, when we thought we knew what we were doing.

And so Peter also says to you, “I know you acted in ignorance. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” This is God’s sweet gospel to you. God removes all ignorance! God’s power causes a changing of our minds. The many ways that we take our awareness of God for granted burdens us, and makes us realize our great need to repent. He reveals the ignorance of our sin and offers full and free forgiveness through faith and repentance. Repent of taking knowledge of God for granted, and have all your sins wiped out by Jesus’ perfect love and death. Then you will be refreshed by the Lord. With your sins forgiven and your ignorance removed, you can enjoy the knowledge of God, and be reinvigorated to grow in that knowledge and share it for generations to come.

God’s Word removes our ignorance about him. When we stand on the shoulders of God’s Word and are aware of what God has done for us, we want to promote awareness for the next generation. What is the best way to promote awareness? Speaking about God, and encouraging with words is one way. A better way is to model what it is to know what God has done for you. Modeling, not mouthing will get the job done. Because after all, you and the next generation are co-heirs of God’s promise.

   2. Set an example for the next generation.

We are familiar with how heirs work. We usually think of an heir as someone who receives an inheritance from someone who has just died, called the benefactor. The heir benefits from the work that the benefactor did in their lives. Peter calls the Israelites heirs. He told them, “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers.” There was a grain of truth in the lie that some of the Israelites believed about their Jewish descent. They believed that they were well off because they were heirs of believers. But it is important to realize what the people were heirs of, whose shoulders they were standing on. It wasn’t their ancestors’ work, it was God’s work, his promises. They were not heirs of the Father because of the work of their fathers. The Israelites did not receive the good works of the prophets, rather, they received the good news about God. It wasn’t merely facts that the prophets were relaying, it was the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word. It was the promises of God that the heirs receive from the prophets.

And by God’s grace, you too are heirs. You also receive the good news that the prophets gave and all the promises of God. You stand on the shoulders of the 66 books of the Bible that reveal how much God loves you. They show the great things that God has done for you – to use his almighty power to protect his people, to come into the world, to live for you, to die for you, and to rise for you. God, by the power of his Word, makes you an heir.

It is a great privilege to be an heir of God’s Word. You are not an heir of God because you are a 3rd or 4th generation Christian. You are not an heir because your parents are Christians. You are not an heir because you happened into Grace. You are an heir because of Jesus’ work, because Jesus chose you to be an heir. He wanted to give you forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation because of his great love for you.

That’s why you act like an heir, because you are an heir, along with those believers before you and the next generation of believers after you. How can an heir of God’s promises act like an heir? By refocusing on your Father and reevaluating God’s Word. God’s Word is the reason you are an heir, so grow in your knowledge of that Word. Expand your grasp of your Father’s Word by making learning about him a priority in your life through church, Bible study, and reading his Word on your own. And also reenergizing the work being done in your church. How can you encourage your brothers and sisters to stand on the shoulders of your heavenly Father with you? We have Adult and Family Nurture groups here. All they do is encourage our next generation to be good Christians. Take advantage of opportunities they give like Bible class, fellowship events, and the organization of those events.

Those are just a few of the many opportunities you have to be an active member of your church. That’s the example for the next generation of leaders. And you next generation, you high schoolers and grade schoolers, look for those examples. You have the privilege not only to figure out how you are going to serve God in your life, but have the next opportunity to be the leading members of the church. You can prepare for that, not by slinking away from church, but by seriously considering all the great things God has done for you, finding those examples of faithful members, and being a strong church that can faithfully make known what God has done to the next generation. All of you have the opportunity to model what God has done for you to set an example of what it means to you that you are the heir of God’s promises.

God’s Word will endure forever, and by God’s grace, we get to stand on the shoulders of God’s Word. We will not be here forever, God has better things in store. But there will be another generation here, and God gives us the privilege of sharing with them what Jesus means for them in real life. We have the privilege to promote awareness and set an example for the next generation, so that we don’t take God’s Word for granted, but model how to treasure God’s Word and reflect his great love for generations to come. Amen.