Hope from Inside the Tomb

Steve Viars April 11, 2009 Acts 2:1-42

Introduction:

- this morning I’d like to begin by asking you a question…

Is it ever acceptable for a Christian to lose hope?…what do you think about that?...

- now you might say – do you want this to be “the response I’m supposed to give in church” answer…or the “response I sometimes have when facing the pressures of the real world” answer?…

- sometimes there’s a gap in those two positions, isn’t there?...

- we’re pretty sure that the church answer is “no” --- it is never acceptable for a Christian to lose hope…and we wouldn’t even have to break a sweat to back that up for a lot of reasons…like the fact that:

1. In Christ, we have a personal relationship with the One who proclaims Himself to be “the God of Hope.”

- Romans 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

- so Christians don’t have to lose hope because we have a divine source of that commodity and because of the power of the Holy Spirit we can actually abound in hope…

- like a full tank of gas, not just enough to get us through the day…you can abound in it…

- of course that assumes that you have a personal relationship with God, and we’ll talk more about that later…but if you are really a Christian, you have a personal connection/relationship to the “God of hope…”…we also know that…

2. The Bible provides instruction to help us maintain our hope.

- Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

- whenever we’re tempted to give up, whenever we’re tempted to throw in the towel…we have a sufficient source of truth to guide us and help us continue on the path God desires…it’s referred to in this text as “instruction” from God…with the distinctly started purpose that “we might have hope.”…we can also keep in mind that…

3. Many people have gone before us and faced significant trials without losing hope.

- consider Job, who after all he faced still was able to sayJob 13:15 - Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.

- in other words, regardless of what God might allow in my life – there is so much evidence on the positive side of the ledger that I would never let go of my hope…

- and that’s part of the beauty of being in God’s family – you never have to go first – you can always point to someone else who has gone before you who has been able to handle hard times well…and in your heart you say, “if God gave Job the strength to respond that way, He could give it to me as well…”

- then of course there’s the fact that…

4. We are instructed to never lose hope, and God does not call us to something unless, in His strength, it is possible to live that way.

- Hebrews 10:23 - Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

- that’s just a sampling of reasons why we would say that, “no, it is never acceptable for a Christian to lose hope.”

- However (and there’s always a “however”, isn’t there?...)…often there’s a gap between what we know to be true in the church house on the Lord’s day…and the way things sometimes play out in the rough and tumble of everyday life…

- in fact, I would not be surprised if there will be a number of people here today who, if they could speak honestly without the concern that they might be looked down upon for their authenticity, might say something like…

1. In a certain area of my life, I gave up hope long ago…with that particular person, or in that kind of situation…I’ve lost hope…

2. or, someone else might say – I can talk about hope all I want, but based on my response last week of anger, frustration, bitterness, or depression…whatever that response was, it certainly didn’t look like, sound like, or feel like…hope…

3. or perhaps the person who might say…I haven’t given up hope…yet…but at least with a certain individual, or a certain situation…I’m not sure how much longer I can go…my “hope tank” is running on fumes…

 

- well, let’s switch the direction of out gaze…what about Jesus?....the One who the Bibles says is the “author and perfector of our faith”?...

- Did He ever lose hope?...not even in the grave…that’s why I’d like to talk to you this morning about…Hope from Inside the Tomb….

 

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Acts chapter 2?...page 92 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

 

- our church’s theme this year is Finding Hope

- for all the reasons we just mentioned and many more, we believe that hope is available for every person who sincerely seeks it from the Lord…

- we would say along with the Psalmist…Psalm 71:14 - But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.

- on the other hand we’re realists…so we’re not going to pretend that this is easy or automatic…that’s why we’re trying to study as many passages as possible on this subject so we have an arsenal of truth to help us when our hope is shaken…

- Acts chapter 2 is a wonderful Easter passage for a variety of reasons…but embedded in what we learn about the resurrection of Christ is a curious statement about hope…please look for it as I read beginning at Acts 2:1…

- Read Acts 2:1-42…

 

- we’re talking this morning about Hope from Inside the Tomb…and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 reasons Jesus never lost hope.

 

I. Jesus Hoped in the Father Because of His Significant Purpose – vv. 1-13.

- Acts 2 is the wonderful story of the birth of the church…

- and I realize there’s a lot of twists and turns here, but please keep the central focus in mind…these first 13 verses are all about the great news that God is going to significant  lengths to be sure that the message of Christ is available to all the nations…

- from the very outset, He wanted the church to be a diverse group of people…a multi-ethnic church…something that would have been unheard of in that day…and is still a powerful witness wherever it occurs today…

- now, to better understand the significance of this…you have to go back to…

A. Explained in Acts 1:8.

- by now Jesus has been resurrected from the dead, but He has not yet ascended up to heaven…

- and so He meets with his disciples who finally are convinced that Jesus was alive…

- and their understanding of that historical fact completely transformed their lives and ministries for the rest of their days…that’s why this book is called “the acts of the apostles”…what these people said, and what these people accomplished, after they understood that their Savior was alive…

- so in verse 6… Acts 1:6-8 - So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

- part of that news probably would have caught them by surprise…not because Jesus hadn’t taught them about it, or modeled it for them…but because the disciples were always a bit slow on the uptake--especially when what Jesus said stretched them outside of their conventional thinking…

- you’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem – the city where they were located --- that wouldn’t have been a surprise, or Judea – the broader area…again, still part of their nation…but it was the next piece that would have shocked them…the Samaria part…and then the remotest part of the earth…

- the Jews hated the Samaritans…they considered them half-breeds…

- and because many of the Jews believed they were righteous simply because of their birth into the Jewish nation…the thought that people outside that nation could somehow become part of God’s family would have been outrageous…

- notice their question in verse 6 – OK, we finally believe that you’re alive…so now will you be restoring the kingdom to…Israel?....

- and Christ’s response is – I have a much larger plan than that…because I have a much larger heart than that…

- part of the reason Jesus could have hope even in the tomb was because He knew that His death made it possible for anyone to be reconciled to God...- that was…

B. Consistent with what Jesus valued.

- if you know one verse in the Bible, it’s probably this one…

- John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

- see, here’s the principle – the depth of your hope reveals the identity of your values…

- if Jesus’ highest value had been “being treated properly by others at all times”…then the grave would have been a hopeless event…

- if his highest value had been ease, or pleasure, or always getting His way --- that’s not even in the same universe as what He’d just experienced…had He valued any of those things as highly as many of us do on the average day, He would have had no hope…

- but our passage says, quoting the Messiah in first person, even at Christ’s death…– Acts 2:26 – Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue exulted, moreover my flesh will live in hope.  

- why?...because Jesus knew that it was only through the suffering, and humiliation, and crucifixion of His flesh…that people in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, could possibly be in a position of being redeemed…

- and because He so valued that purpose (and the people/souls that purpose represented) – He was able to maintain hope from the grave…

- all of this was…

C. Illustrated on the Day of Pentecost.

- there’s a lot here that could take us away from our primary purpose here, but the first 13 verses of Acts 2 are very straightforward about what is transpiring…

- Acts 1:8 (which Jesus spoke 10 days prior), is now being fulfilled…the church is being born…

- and one of the starling characteristics is that the apostles were able to speak in tongues…

- and the meaning of that is very clear…they were able to speak in a way that the various people groups gathered there for the Feast of Pentecost were able to understand the good news of Jesus Christ in their own language, even though the speakers had never studied that language…

- so this isn’t gibberish…the gift of tongues in the Bible that was sometimes used prior to the completion of the canon never was gibberish…

- but the big point is what this said about the group of men and women God was calling to Himself…God wanted the church to consist of all kinds of people…(from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria…)

- and what did that have to do with Jesus’ hope?...

D. The privilege of participating in this purpose generates hope by putting tough times in perspective.

- see, one of the phrases that followers of Jesus Christ learn to live by is – “if that’s what it takes…”…

- my hope is not in getting my way….my hope is not in having a life of ease…

- my hope is that God can use me in the accomplishment of His purpose of drawing men and women to Himself…

- and if my going through difficulty is part of that plan…then…whatever it takes…

- the depth of your hope reveals the identity of your values…

- and if you love people, and you long to see men and women come to Christ…

- if that involves you going through tough times in order to illustrate the power of Christ in a person’s life…that doesn’t diminish your hope…it increases it…

- and one question for all of us this morning is – is it possible that you are basing your hope on the short term relief instead of the long term purpose?...

 

- our church has the privilege of supporting missionaries around the world…which is obviously consistent with the teaching of this passage and we’re very thankful for the faithful giving of our church family that allows us to support so many missionaries…

- the week before week, our missionaries to the Congo, Seth and Darla Curtis, finally were able to have permanent electricity run to the house where they live…

- someone from another church provided the funds and Seth sent out an e-mail that talked about how great it was to have this for their family…

- he even said – “I am up a bit early this morning.  Lot’s to do, and it feels a bit like Christmas morning when you were a kid.  Darla just came to me and asked if she can use her oven to make something for breakfast…wow, what a novelty.”

- Later that day, he sent a message to Titus saying – “We just had lunch, and Darla made this Farmer’s breakfast kind of a thing with eggs and hash-browns and TOAST.  The funny thing was that all of us were standing around the toaster watching it beautifully toast our bread.  It was very entertaining.”

- can you imagine serving God in a culture where a toaster that actually worked was entertaining?...

- two days later we received this message --Some bad news--we had a really good 2 days of electricity.  I got up about 5 o'clock this morning and noticed it was off.  Got back up a little after 6 and it was still off, so I went out to the pole to see what the deal could be.  At 6:30 my neighbor called, and broke the news that someone had stolen 200 meters of our cable last night...We are back to square one.  So it's very sad.  Darla and I prayed first thing this morning after hearing from our neighbor and are seeking our refuge in God.  We know that He is in control, and desires this for a purpose, and we just pray that we can learn what we need to, and respond in a way that is pleasing to Him through this all. 

- there’s an example of people who are finding their hope in the salvation of men and women in the Congo, including those who would steal from them…more than in their temporary comfort or convenience…

- the depth of your hope reveals the identity of your values…

- now, what can we learn from these next verses?...

II. Jesus Hoped in the Father Because of His Reliable Promises – vv. 14-36

- the point of verses 14-21 is…

A. The gift of tongues was predicted in the Old Testament.

- what Peter chose to do here was very significant…

- he very easily could have placed the focus on the experience…and used all of this to his advantage in a variety of ways that just played on people’s emotions…

- but he knew that would not be enough to sustain a person long term…

- Christianity is not first and foremost a collection of people’s experiences…it is a choice to belief in a set of historical facts…

- that is why he quotes from the prophet Joel…because he wants everyone to see – God is just keeping His Word, again…

- our hope is not in an experience or the lack thereof---it is a choice to believe and trust what God has told us in His Word…that’s why Peter would later write…

- 2 Peter 1:16-21 - For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

- see, that’s what biblical hope is – choosing to take God at His Word…living as if what God has promised will certainly and absolutely come to pass…

- and of course the greatest proof of that was the fact that…

B. The resurrection of Christ was also predicted in the Old Testament.

- verses 25-28 are a quote of Psalm 16…

- so this was written 1000 years before it came to pass…

- and David was used of God to predict that the reason the Messiah, according to verse 26, could say…Acts 2:26 – Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh will live in hope

- was because He was choosing to believe the promise the Father made to Him…Acts 2:27 – Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

- the point is…

C. Jesus never lost hope because He knew His Father’s Words were trustworthy.

- that’s why Psalm 16:1 begins with these words… Psalm 16:1 - Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.

- now, there are several observations we can make about all of this…

1. There is a direct relationship between hope in ones heart and trust in God’s Word.

- that was the message that Peter was proclaiming in his very first sermon…

- the tomb is empty – everyone knows that…

- David predicted that would happen 1000 years ago, and we know he wasn’t talking about Himself because people have been to his tomb many times…

- therefore Jesus is the promised Messiah, and what God has said about Him has been vindicated, yet again.

- there is a direct relationship between hope in ones heart and trust in God’s Word.

 

- we have a number of people today who have lost loved ones in the Lord…

- and they can think back to Easter Sundays where they and their spouse were together probably with all the kids when they were young…and this would be a great celebration of the resurrection of Christ but also a wonderful time together as a family…

- and now those days are gone…their honey has preceded them in death…

- and we’re not going to sugar coat that – that’s about as hard as it gets…but there is a significant difference between hard, and hopeless…

- and many of those persons would say today is that what keeps them going is the promises of God’s Word….that some day (and perhaps someday soon), they’ll see their loved one again…and they won’t have Alzheimer’s anymore, or they won’t have that cancer anymore…

- and it’s not that that’s a fable to pacify the weak…that is hope that is based on the revealed and reliable Word of God…

- and Jesus was able to have hope in the darkest hour of human history because He had no doubt about the reliability of His Father’s Words…

 

2. God does not always tell us everything we would like to know, but He always tells us everything we need to know.

- many times God’s promises are cryptic…

- when David said what he said in Psalm 16 – you will not allow your holy One to undergo decay…we don’t even know for sure how much of that he understood…

- for 1000 years people would have wondered exactly what that meant…

- and you might say – well, why doesn’t God answer all our questions, completely, right now…

- apparently, He doesn’t want to…

- but more importantly, He has definitely given us more than is necessary to trust Him, and now the question is whether or not we will…

- Preserve me O God, for in You I have put my trust…

- is it possible that your lack of hope reveals a misplaced trust?...

 

- now, what do we learn next?

III. Jesus Hoped in the Father Because of the Powerful Results.

- verse 37 says -- Acts 2:37 - Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart…

- that is also why it was so important for Peter to direct their attention to the historical facts that were predicted in God’s Word…

- because Scripture can pierce a person’s heart…

- we learned in the book of Hebrews that - Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

- that’s what we were trying to do with the passion play – and I want to thank every person from our church who worked so diligently to make that presentation possible…but the purpose of the passion play for the last 20 years has been to provide a vehicle through which the Word of God can be conveyed…it’s not drama instead of the Word – it’s drama to convey the Word…because God’s Word is so powerful…

- and when Peter’s listeners understood…it was because of their sin, and our sin, that the Messiah had to die…and that in their case, some of them had even been involved in arguing for the crucifixion of Christ…they were pierced to the heart…thankfully, they had a…

A. Proper response #1- the question of the people.

- v. 37 – Brethren, what shall we do?

- not because Peter was such a great preacher, but because God’s Word contains such a powerful message…what shall we do?...

- and that led to…

B. Proper response #2 – the answer of the apostles.

1. Repent and believe this message – make an inward change.

- the reason I say that this was a proper response is that Peter could have shied away from making this kind of direct confrontation…he was risking a lot by telling them the truth…

- because the word repent means…turn around….stop going the way you’re going…

- for some of them that meant, stop believing that you’re a child of God simply because of your birthright…

- for others, stop believing that you can earn your way to heaven apart from the finished work of the Messiah on the cross…

- all of that is simply self-righteousness and is of no lasting value…

- you have to repent and admit that you need a Savior and place your faith and trust in Him…

- that’s why he said previously in this message…

Acts 2:21 – And it shall be that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 2:36 - Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.

- and sometimes I wonder if we realize how much courage it took for Peter to say this…we know how the story came out – but Peter had no idea how these men and women would react to the message God has given him as one of His witnesses…

- of course that leaves a questions for everyone here…

- the evidence is clear – the tomb is empty, the price Jesus paid was accepted by the Father, and God promised 1000 years in advance that it would occur this way…

- has there ever been a definite time in your life where you have repented and believed?...

 

2. Be baptized – make a public profession.

- this part of the verse has tripped some people up because it says “for the forgiveness of your sins”…the word “for” can mean to demonstrate the forgiveness of your sins…and that is certainly what it means here. Especially when you compare Scripture with Scripture…

- but Peter knew that it would be one thing for these persons to say that they had believed in Christ…it would be something else for them to publically demonstrate it and renounce their old way of living and identify themselves with the crucified and risen Savior…

- of course that too leads to a question – if you know the Lord, have you ever publically demonstrated that fact through believer’s baptism?...obedience to God’s commands will fill a person’s heart and life with hope…

 

- well, how does the story end?...

C. Proper response #3 – the reaction of the people.

Acts 2:41 - So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
 

 

- 3000 people took him up on the offer, and the church was born, a group of people who would be known in part for their hope. 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video