The Crutch and the Cross

Acts 3:1-10

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”


The disciples are devoted together, sharing bread, sharing costs and expenses and needs. Bearing one another’s burdens.  Living out this new covenant reality within the context of community.

And this lame beggar who had been at this gate by the temple everyday asks Peter and John for some money.

And Peter looks at this guy straight into his eyes, into his soul! And says “Look at me!”

AWKWARRRRD!

Imagine doing that to someone you dont know.


The guy gets healed JUMPS to his feet, he’s able to walk again. He walks into the temple courts, jumping and praising God.  We later find out this is a guy is at least 40 years old. I’m almost 40 and to get me jumping around like that... there has to be a lot on the line....


But the onlookers were “filled with amazement”. And a large crowd started forming and Peter noticed the crowd and saw a great opportunity, and begins preaching his second sermon since Pentecost.


Now, I want to stop here and talk about my friend Peter.  This is the same, rambunctious, head strong, sometimes foolish, Jesus denying, fisherman Peter.

But now all of a sudden, he’s been preaching very boldly AND, he sounds like Shakespeare: (with British accent) “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”


But this second sermon is very similar to the first one, and God meets them where they are in the public square, He tells them the truth about themselves, he offers them pardon and demands a response.

And check out the response:

Acts 4:1-4 (Read)

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.


Peter gets arrested and as he’s arrested hundreds of people come forward and get saved. 

Imagine that!  Its like if I was out here in the streets of Ybor preaching the gospel and get tased and handcuffed and as I’m getting dragged away I’m crying out “So come forward if you want some of this!”

I’m guessing very few of the people out here would be like: “I want to get arrested.”

And yet so powerful was the presence of the Holy Spirit out side the beautiful gate of the temple, that the people werent intimidated by the authorities, they had just witnessed an incredible miracle and heard the Word preached with such boldness.

Now there will always be people who will get offfended by the gospel message and by the idea that they need a savior, and they can even sometimes turn hostile to this idea.  Not everyone became a Christian.

Some will hear and praise God but others will either turn away or turn against. Its always been that way and always will.


For those who turn to God, its a relief for God to tell them the truth about themselves.


When I heard the Word and began understanding the truth about myself it pricked my pride but ultimately it was a relief.  It was like “Finally! Someone gets me!, I’m a hopeless sinner who needs  help!”


If God told me back then, “Marcio, dont worry, you’re doing great, keep it up”


I would’ve lost my mind!!  What do you mean I’m doing great!!  I’m a hot mess!! I’m confused, depressed, hopeless! What are you blind GOD!!


No, He tells us the TRUTH about us.  And! He doesn’t leave us there, Amen?  He offers us pardon.


You probably heard this from a lot of unbelievers and I believe it has its root in Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud who suggested that the concept of a loving Creator was simply a psychological projection of a persons innermost wishes. Listen to one of his quotes:


    • “We tell our selves that it would be very nice if there was a God who created the world and was a benevolent Providence and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is the very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be.”       -Civilization and Its Discontents


On a surface level what Freud is saying is true: its more likely for people to believe in something that they like than something that they dont like.


I mean who wouldn’t like the idea of being in a relationship with their loving creator who wants only the best for them with a promise of eternal bliss and enjoyment?


But! the Bible also teaches that believers should “Fear the Lord”...so does this mean that faith in God is meant to fulfill some sort of desire or wish of living in fear??

Has anyone experienced fulfillment in their life Through fear?  I doubt it.


Freud’s idea actually turns around on his own head.


If you suggest that people only believe because they want it to be true, then the counter-claim is that atheists are only non-believers because they don’t want it to be true.


Some atheists have even admitted to this.


Aldous Huxley, a famous writer and philosopher who wrote “A Brave New World” was a humanist an atheist and nominated for the Noble Prize in Literature said this:

“For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust.”

Did you hear that? They objected to mortality not because science, not because they found it unintelligible but because it got in the way of their sexual freedom, their sence of liberty.


And Czeslaw Milosz a polish poet said this: “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.”


Why dont they want to believe in heaven or hell? Because they dont want to be held accountable.


And so is it true that believers are weak, unintelligent and lame in need of a religious crutch to get through life?


Well in a sence no because obviously there are a lot of Christian academic geniuses and very healthy Christians also. But in a sense yes because after all, dont we all?


Some just use booze instead of the Bible.

It’s not IF you have a difficiency or IF you’re wounded, the question is WHAT is your particular crutch?


People rely on all kinds of things for their comfort or self-esteem:  Material possessions, money, food, lack of food, diet, aesthetics, fashion, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sex.

The funny thing is, some of these are considered to be normal parts of living in our society and not crutches, as long as they dont become destructive.


But all these things are temporary bandages and crutches that never deal with the deeper issues of who we are as people.


 “If you have a broken leg, you need a crutch, If you’re ill you need medicine. Thats just the way things are. The Christian understanding of human nature is that we are damaged, wounded and disabled by sin. Thats just the way things are.” -McGrath 


How many times have we heard that the church should operate as a sort of hospital?  Why?

Because it is full of hurting, wounded, ill people who are in the process of healing.


But as is the case with anyone who’s sick or injured, the healing process cant even begin unless you first admit it and seek assistance.


“Marcio, your arm is wounded.”  

“No its not”

“But theres blood and puss”

“Where? It looks fine to me.”

“your forearm is green and your fingers are black.”

“What are you color blind? It’s fine man.”

“Its starting to stink bro, you should really get that checked.”


And thats exactly what The Word of God aims to do.

Hebrews 4:12 says “Its alive and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, (we spoke briefly on that last week) joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 


We were talking about Pentecost last week and how Peter filled with the Holy Spirit preached this powerful word to these people of different nationalities and languages in Acts ch 2. And in Acts 2:37 it shows us their reaction: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “brothers, so what shall we do?”


Do you allow Gods Word to “cut to your heart”?


When the Truth of God is penetrating your heart how do you react?

Do you immediately hold it off? Do you shield yourself? Or do you open yourself to the tender loving wound of the Lord? Your friend and Father. Your companion and counselor.


I’m not an expert in being a pastor, I’m not an export in church planting, far from it. But if theres something I might be an expert in (and I’m at risk of being foolish here) is being an expert in recognizing the grace of God when it’s at work in my life.


Public Speaking? You crazy. Its not me. Never was.


I knew God was calling me into preaching when at times i would be praying by myself,  a word from God would begin to swell up in me, a word of exhortation for His people. And I would preach to the windows in my room. And I remember preaching with such passion and zeal and wondering where that came from.

But I clearly understood this to be God working in and through me, preparing me, training me, developing my heart and mind for what was to come.


You see, the gospel has the power and ability to keep the dignity of man and the smallness of man in perfect tension.


Allowing us to have a sence of strong self-worth without becoming big-headed.


And even better, as Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”


C.S Lewis wrote in his book “The Weight of Glory” 

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too easily pleased.”


What is it that you find yourselves really relying on?  How does that effect you?  What is the impact of that false crutch?  How will it prevent you from truly experiencing the fullness that God offers? 


Why do we sometimes hold back from allowing Gods Word to penetrate our hearts?


I invite you to lay it all down before God today and bring it not to a crutch but to the cross.