Second Sunday of Easter (A) March 30, 2008
What is a Real Christian? (Acts 2:14a, 22-32)
In every election year, religion seems to be a hot topic. This year’s no different. Religious affiliations are claimed or denied. In some circles, which candidates are “real Christians” is hotly debated. That raises an obvious question, “What is a ‘real Christian?’” What does a real Christian believe? What truths must he/she act on?
There’s no better place to find answers to those questions than the first Christian sermon ever preached. Acts 2:14 tells us that Peter preached that sermon. The core of his message is found in Acts 2:22-32. In Peter’s sermon we discover that being a real Christian means:
1. Believing what God says about who Jesus is (v. 22)
Peter declares, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the man God Himself has proved to be His Son. As John 5:18 makes clear, the one credited by God to be His Son, is equal with God. How did God prove Jesus was His Son? Through miracles, signs, and wonders. In God’s own strength Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, walked on water, and shouted a storm into silence. Now keep in mind, Peter was preaching to people who lived where Jesus had ministered. Many had heard Jesus speak. Some saw the miracles Peter spoke of first-hand. If Jesus hadn’t performed the signs Peter claimed, those people would have smirked and walked away.
In the end, Peter didn’t have to prove Christ’s miracles. He only had to remind his listeners of what they had seen – and what God was telling them about Jesus through the miracles He performed. In his first sermon, Peter makes it clear. Being a real Christian requires us to believe what God says about Jesus. Jesus is God’s Son! But that’s only the beginning. Not only must we believe God when He says who Jesus is, Peter says we must believe in what Jesus did. Being a real Christian means:
2. Believing that Jesus died for our sins (v. 23)
In verse 23, Peter continues to preach about Jesus saying, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Peter proclaims that wicked men nailed Jesus, the Son of God, to the cross.” Wicked men tortured and murdered Him. But don’t miss this – wicked men did it all according to God’s purpose and plan. Peter declares that it was God’s intention for Jesus to be crucified.Why?
Because God loves you. God loves me. You see, the Bible says that you and I are sinners. We are warped in our thinking, our talking, and our acting. The Bible also says God is holy. That means He must punish our sin. But at the same time God must punish our sin, He doesn’t want to punish us. And that’s why it was God’s purpose for wicked men to kill Jesus. At the cross God took all our sin, dumped it on Jesus, and then killed Him in our place. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…” (2 Cor. 5:21).
That’s a pretty fantastic claim. How do we know it’s true? How can we know the death Jesus died really paid our penalty? You may be thinking, “I’m consumed by pornography,” or “I’ve had two abortions,” or “I’ve cheated on my wife,” or “I’m a gossip and I just can’t stop”- how can I really know that the death Jesus died is sufficient for me? Peter tells us the answer. Jesus didn’t stay dead. In the first Christian sermon, Peter declares that being a real Christians means believing what God says about who Jesus is, believing that Jesus died for our sins, and:
3. Believing that Jesus rose from the grave (vv. 24-32)
In verse 24 Peter declares, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” In verse 32 he continues, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are witnesses of the fact.”
No matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are, you can know that the death Jesus died is sufficient for you because Jesus conquered death. Because Jesus lives, we can live, too. His resurrection proves that God has forever accepted His death on the cross as full payment for our sin.
This year, the most important question you can ask isn’t, “Is this or that candidate a “real Christian”? It is, “Am I a Christian?” Am I believing what God says about who Jesus is? Am I believing Jesus died for my sins? Am I believing Jesus rose from the grave? Have I yielded my life to Him?