There is a sermon in Acts chapter 3 that strikes at the core of modern western Christianity, and, I fear, is exactly the kind of sermons many pastors need to hear, and refuse to preach.
Acts 3 leads off with Peter and John going to the temple to pray in the morning and finding a crippled man begging for money. It is one of the more famous healings in scripture, and the man who wanted money winds up walking, leaping, and praising God all the way to the temple.
Then the crowd rushes in to see what is going on, and Peter unleashes a loud, bold, Biblically grounded, deeply convicting sermon about sin, the crucifixion, and the need to repent.
Among the soul-piercing elements of his sermon are these lines:
“You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you. You put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses…” Acts 3:14-15
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19
“every soul that does not heed that prophet [Jesus] shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” Acts 3:23
“God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:26
Say this stuff today in your church in North America and there is a very high likelihood that half your congregation would not make it back next week. Depending on your denominational affiliation, you may even get a call from a supervisor asking you to tone it down a bit.
Peter’s sermon is as much “fire and brimstone” as most of America can handle. I seriously wonder, and my heart goes out to all the congregants in today’s health and wealth churches. Do they even know what the truth is, if their pastors are concealing it from them?
If Peter wanted to, he could have given the best health and wealth sermon ever on that day. He had just healed a man, and the whole crowd was marveling at the man’s good health.
How easy would it have been for Peter to say “Follow Jesus and he will heal you.” And then leave it at that?
It would be very easy. It would be true too. Jesus is our healer. He healed scores of people, his disciples went on to heal hundreds of thousands more over the centuries. Is Jesus our healer? Absolutely.
But to stop at that would be to sell Jesus short. Jesus did not die on the cross to give us health and wealth NOW. He did not die to make this life our best life. He did not die for health and wealth. He died to overcome the power of sin, and its most potent weapon, death. He died to save our eternal souls.
He does not promise to always heal our sicknesses. He promises to be with us until the end of the age. That is different.
He tells us to follow him.
To the cross.
Not to health and wealth. If you are healthy and wealthy, then praise God. But do not sell him short. Do not believe for a second that the kingdom of God is just about physical healing in this life. It isn’t. That is a very small element of the Kingdom that is not guaranteed to all, and is only temporary when it does happen. I assure you that this crippled man lived and eventually died. He was not given an immortal incorruptible body that day by Peter. It sounds to me like he came to saving faith that day, and lives in heaven now, healthy and wealthy. But if Peter only healed him on earth without offering any eternal salvation from sin, then this healing was meaningless.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 says this “…2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Is there any doubt that this passage is referring to our day? It was true then as well, but it is just as true now.
Hundreds of years before Christ the prophet Isaiah had this to say: “They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.“
Now go back and read Peter’s sermon in its entirety. Is it all negative? Is it all condemnation? Is it all hatred and self-righteousness?
No, its not. It isn’t even close. It is all about repentance from our sinful ways and into God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
People seem to think, for some reason, that the health and wealth gospel is the only way to grow a big church, or the only way to get people into the kingdom. But its not.
Check out the results of Peter’s sermon: “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
Peter’s sermon was remarkably effective. Thousands of people came to saving faith because of it. The health and wealth teachers in America have some pretty big congregations, but I have never heard of a health and wealth sermon bringing in 2,000 souls.
Remember the gospel. Always remember it.
Jesus saves us from our sin, from our wickedness and our evil. He saves us from our rotten sinful souls and gives us new ones that are clean and will live forever in heaven. Don’t ever let anything overshadow that fact.