Good News that is Louder than the Bad |06.30.24| Actions Speak Louder! pt.3
Drew Williams   -  

Acts 2:37-47

Pastor Drew Williams

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Action speaks louder than words…but not nearly as often.”


I’ve found that to be true, have you? There are rarely equal amounts of actions to back up the words that people throw around.


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People will say things all the time like, “I’m taking the whole family on a vacation… once we win the lottery.” or “Someone should really do something about the disrepair of that street downtown.” or “if I was in charge, I’d make things a lot better…”


You’ve known people like this, right? My grandpa used to say people like that were full of what makes the grass grow greener. And he would know, because he could keep up with the best of them!


But even though we know that action speaks louder, – that words can be cheap – the world seems to be LOUD with words. And it’s hard to see examples where people are actually DOING something of worth.


Our world seems LOUD with bad news no matter where we are listening. News on the TV always focuses on the things that make people stressed or fearful. This political season we’re in has everyone focusing on what is bad right now that they would change, or the bad way things might go depending on who wins.


And even for those of us who follow Jesus, we get swept up into all of that right along with everyone else. Even when we SAY we follow Jesus and we have hope in his grace and power, and we know that he has made a way for a full abundant life… Even when we SAY we believe those things… The things we DO…?


How we ACT… sometimes doesn’t make us look any different from everyone else.


Because it’s easy to get swept up in the fear and the what-ifs. It’s easy to get obsessive about the bad news. It’s easy to focus on the negative because it seems to be all around us.


But I want to live differently than that, don’t you? I don’t want to have my whole day ruined by something someone on the internet or the TV said. I don’t want to have all my conversations with my friends be thinly-veiled gossip sessions, where all I do is vent about what is going wrong with the world, and tsk-tsk-tsk about how it’s not the way it used to be.


I want to be the type of person who has good news to share. I want to be the type of person others are excited to talk to, because I’m always lifting others up with my demeanor. Don’t you want to be like that?


There’s actually a guaranteed way to become a force for good in the world, even when all the bad out there seems so loud. It’s a simple enough tip, though it’s not an easy fix. It all comes down to what you BELIEVE. And our passage from the Bible today will help us learn how to hold on to GOOD that is louder than all the bad around us.



So open your Bibles to Acts chapter 2, which can be found on p90 of the black, seat-back Bibles. This passage picks up right after the section we read last week that Pastor Erik walked us through.


The disciples who had followed Jesus, seen him die, rise back to life, and then ascend into heaven are waiting for the “gift” that he promised them. The presence of his spirit. Then it happens, and the Holy Spirit shows up like a rushing wind and individual flames that are above each person’s head. They start talking about the good news of Jesus with everyone in the street, and the miracle is that they are speaking every foreigner’s native language.


Everyone is wondering what is going on, and Peter steps up and addresses the whole crowd, telling them that not only is Jesus the savior sent by God, but he also fulfilled the prophecies that had been promised for centuries, that God was calling not only the Jews back to himself, but all peoples: young, old, men, women, slaves, free… EVERYONE was invited to be a part of the family of God and play a part in the work he’s doing. And that’s where we pick up, so let’s read together Acts 2:37-47…


[ACTS 2:37-47]



Now, this passage might be familiar to you because you’ve read it before, or maybe even because you remember we preached on this passage earlier in the year when we were talking about the mission and vision for our church in this season. But this passage is not only a classic description of what it means to BE the church, it’s also the source of many of our core values as a church family.


It starts with all the people who were listening to Peter’s message that ends with verse 36: “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”


And the people listening are “cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”


These are all folks who either lived in Jerusalem, or had travelled there for the festival. Some of them might have been in the crowd that chanted for Jesus to be crucified just a few weeks earlier.


Some of them might have just been around at that time. But ALL of them had heard about Jesus: the one who did miracles, talked about the kingdom of God, and raised up a huge following before being snuffed out by the Romans.


And all of them had heard the rumors that his body went missing. That his closest followers said he had been raised back to life. But…was it true?


And now they’ve gotten the full rundown from Peter, and they can’t argue with the miraculous language translation that everyone else is hearing, and they realize… Jesus really WAS the savior sent by God!


And they had missed it the first time around. And they were cut to the heart, the Holy Spirit that had empowered the disciples and enabled the miracles was now convicting them and they knew they needed to DO something about it.


“What should we do?”


[SLIDE 5] v38

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you…” Peter is offering the same invitation that Jesus always gave to people: repent – change your thinking, change the direction of your life. You’ve been headed in a direction, but now that you have heard the good news about the kingdom of God, you’re invited to TURN.


Be baptized. Be adopted into a new family with a new purpose and be a part of what we’re doing. Doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you’re invited to take your next step in the direction of the family of God, because God still has a plan for you to be a part of!


“Repent and be baptized, EVERY ONE OF YOU…” This is an invitation to ALL. Doesn’t matter how you lived before. Doesn’t matter what mistakes you’ve made. Doesn’t matter, because all are invited to TURN and take a next step in following in the footsteps of Jesus.


“Repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus SO THAT your sins may be forgiven.” And everyone listening to Peter, and everyone who has heard this message in the thousands of years since has realized that this is Good. News.


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We ALL know that no matter how hard we try, we are never perfect. And all of us know deep down that some of the mistakes we’ve made are forgivable or able to be made up for. But ALL of us have something…or a few things…that we keep hidden in the darkest, most secret part of our hearts, because we’re afraid that if it ever got out, people would look at us different.


We might lose friendships or loved ones. We might get judged. We might be found out to be a fraud.


And so when we hear that Jesus is able to FORGIVE our sins, the broken parts of us, the disobedient parts of us, the vengeful and lustful parts of us… that sounds like good news.


Because, deep down, we know we can never fully make up for every mistake we’ve made. But if there is someone who can take care of that? That gives us hope.


And that has been the core of the “good news” of the “Gospel” for as long as we can trace back.


Much of our modern teaching about what the good news of Jesus is has all revolved around talking about how all of us sin. None of us are perfect.


That sin deserves punishment. That’s what justice is all about. And that’s why every one of us is in the same boat. We all deserve punishment for something. None of us can stand before God on our own merit.


And because God knows that, he sent Jesus to take the punishment for us. The legal term for this is ATONEMENT. It means to make something right. The sacrifice of Jesus is the atonement for all the injustice and sin that we’ve caused and sin that we’ve been hurt by for all time.


And because of that, we no longer have to be punished. We can now enter into eternal life in Heaven. Isn’t that good news?!


What I just described is absolutely good. And it’s absolutely true. But when you look at the whole story of the Bible, it isn’t complete.



The gospel of atonement is true, but it isn’t complete. Because, it helps us focus on the work of Jesus, which is good. And it gives us hope for our eternal home with God in Heaven, amazing. But, what am I supposed to do with the rest of my life right now?


The gospel of atonement isn’t complete because it starts in Genesis 3, when the first humans sinned and disobeyed God, and it ends in Revelation 19, when God comes back to judge everyone. But that means that it misses the first two chapters of the Bible that talk about how we were designed with a purpose, given a mission on behalf of God, called to steward all of Creation and be a part of his work.


All of that was before sin entered the story. And the last two chapters of the Bible, after the day of judgment, are the ones that talk about God renewing creation, co-ruling with the people who follow Jesus, giving each of us redeemed purpose in eternity.


Hearing the good news about how Jesus took the price for our sins is absolutely at the core of the message of the Bible, but it’s just not a complete look at what the good news that Jesus came to bring is.


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Because Jesus didn’t spend his time on earth gathering a following by saying, “Hell is waiting for you after you die if you don’t pray a certain prayer. So you’d better make sure not to miss your chance before you die!”


No, he said, “I AM the way to true, abundant life. Life the way you were created for. Come and FOLLOW me.”


We can clearly see from the stories in Scripture that following Jesus isn’t JUST about praying a prayer and then waiting until we die. We know that!


It’s about spending time with Jesus through things like prayer, scripture, community. Because we believe that he has good news for our lives NOW.


And spending time with him is something we do IN ORDER TO be transformed to become more like him in how we think, feel, and act. Because we believe that he came not only to give us eternal life in heaven, but because we believe he came to show us what life is truly supposed to be like now as well!


And when we spend time with him in order to be transformed by him, that enables us to accept his invitation to join in his work in every area of our lives. And we get to do this TOGETHER, for the sake of others.


[SLIDE 9] v38

The crowd listening to Peter wanted to know what to do, and he told them, “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ SO THAT your sins may be forgiven… AND you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”


The good news of Jesus is that forgiveness is ours… AND we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Our past doesn’t have to keep us slaves to death… AND we are invited into true LIFE that is ongoing NOW because of the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself at work in us.


[SLIDE 10] v39

And this wasn’t just for those first listeners that day. “This promise is for YOU, your CHILDREN, and for ALL who are far away…” That means you and me! And our kids and grandkids. And our neighbors and coworkers.


Praise the Lord his invitation is for all! And we get to be a part of that!


[SLIDE 11] v40

The invitation is to be saved, to be rescued from the corrupt generation we are in. To be rescued from the crooked, bent, disfigured age we find ourselves in. In Peter and Jesus’ day, it was under the pressure of Rome who wanted to conform everyone to become more Rom-an.


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Today, we are under the pressure of our generation that is trying to conform everyone to become “whatever you think is right.” And then find others who think like you, and become enemies of those who think differently than you. And become scared of your thoughts, your way of life, becoming threatened by others.


We’re being pulled away from each other into smaller and smaller groups who are constantly finding things to fight about or be anxious about.


And God is inviting us to be rescued from this age of anxiety and fear and suspicion and hate. To TURN and be adopted into his family of life and hope and love.


[SLIDE 13] v41

And those first listeners were so impacted by that message of good news – good news that was actually LOUDER than the bad news that surrounded them – that three thousand of them said, “yeah, sign me up.” and they were baptized. They were adopted into the family of God.


These were people who had been trying to follow God their whole lives, but maybe just hadn’t realized that Jesus was the true way. Or they were trying to follow God on their own power, and finally realized that all they had to do was accept God’s invitation and allow His spirit to be at work in their lives.


And there might even be someone listening now who has “welcomed the message” of Jesus, but you haven’t been baptized yet. You haven’t taken that next step of receiving the promised gift of the Holy Spirit as part of your apprenticeship to Jesus. If that’s you, come talk to me or Pastor Erik after church. We’ll be having another baptism Sunday coming up in September and we want to help you discern if God is prompting you to take that next step. Or if you are someone who was baptized as an infant, but you want to reaffirm those baptismal promises and vows, talk to us after church.


[SLIDE 14] v42

And then we get a glimpse at what the early church was truly like. Not just in the words they said, but in the actions they took. They devoted themselves to learning. They devoted themselves to caring for each other. They devoted themselves to engaging as a family, as a community. They devoted themselves to prayers and growing in trusting God.


[SLIDE 15]

This is actually where we get our first core value as a New Life family, to be Devoted to Jesus. This is why we say we are apprentices of Jesus, learning how to follow him in every area of our lives. We know that following Jesus is a journey, and EVERYONE has a next step in their growth and development.


[SLIDE 16] vv43-45

And the whole community around the early church SAW how they acted towards each other. Awe came upon them, because the followers of the way of Jesus were doing things that were taking care of each other’s actual needs. They were sharing what they had to be the hands and feet of God in providing for each other. They didn’t wait for only the “few” or the “leaders” to do it, because they were ALL involved.


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This is where we get our values for working together and for Radical Generosity. We know that following Jesus isn’t done alone. It is a joy to be transformed together for others. And we show this through love and care for each other and honoring one another – not to gain recognition – but to glorify God.


And we want to be a church that leads the way with radical generosity. We have freely received God’s radical grace, and we choose to respond with radical generosity of our time, our energy, our finances, and our love. We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive.


[SLIDE 18] vv46-47

And as the early church lived out their faith each day, God did his part. God did the actual work of transforming hearts and bringing more and more people into his family.


That’s the same process we’re endeavoring for here at New Life. We want to be a church family that engages in spiritual habits together to help each other spend time with Jesus, so that HE can transform us to become more and more like him. That’s all part of how we join Jesus in his work of sharing hope, redeeming the people and culture around us, and bringing healing and reconciliation to our community and the world.


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The good news of Jesus is not JUST about going to heaven after you die. It’s also the good news of a full, abundant LIFE here and now, joining Jesus in his work in the world.


And so what if our church became even more known as a family that spread that good news around with our actions?


If you’ve been a part of the New Life family for any amount of time, you know that our church has always been focused on the WHOLE Word of God, and it’s always led us to DO things that share the Word of God with others.


Our church started 14 years ago as a church that welcomes others into a life of following Jesus. Our church has started new programs and initiatives that focuses on helping families and individuals in their lives, through practical classes, conferences, counseling.


Our church led the way with radical generosity when normal, everyday members of this family gave money and their time and their expertise to build this campus… not just to have a nice home for our church gatherings, but so that we could have a campus that would be FOR the community. And we’ve backed that up ever since when we welcome outside organizations like Sauk Valley Christian Academy or the United Way Feed the Children program to use our campus during the week so they can serve families in our area.


We’ve been radically generous in allowing groups like the Building Leaders Initiative, the CEO program, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to use our space free of charge so they can engage teens and help the next generation grow.


In recent years, we’ve made sure our Actions speak loudly by hosting marriage events and classes, because we want to invest in marriages to change the trend in our society that treats marriage like a temporary decision. We want children to grow up in stronger families, so we work with parents and couples in different ways as they are in the trenches with their kids.


Because we are relentlessly focused on strengthening families in the Sauk Valley.


We don’t want anyone to be caught under the burden of financial stress and crippling debt, and so we hold financial freedom classes a couple times a year to help give people practical tools as well as Biblical wisdom for handling finances God’s way. In fact, we’ll be running our next session of the financial freedom class in the fall.


I’m not telling you any of these things in order make our church sound “cool” or to pat ourselves on the back. I’m just really proud of our church, and I’m grateful to be a part of this family.


Truly, I want to share with you the ways that we are trying to let our actions speak loudly, because we want to push back on all the bad news that’s in our world. We have Good News that is LOUDER than the Bad. And we follow the ONE who has defeated death. And we have the Spirit of God at work in our lives.


Wouldn’t it be amazing if every single person in our New Life family took ONE next step in letting our actions speak loudly about the good news of Jesus? What would it look like if every single one of us asked God to show us a small step we could take in spending more time with Jesus, or in sharing love with someone we meet, or in linking arms in helping our community?


[SLIDE 20]

What could it look like for you this week? If God is speaking to your heart right now, and I think he is, what is he highlighting for you?


What is God saying to you? How is he inviting you to take a next step this week?


What can you do to be obedient to the voice of God this week?


Is he pressing on your heart something about BEING with Jesus? Do you need to take action with a spiritual habit this week?


Is he pressing on your heart something about generosity? Maybe you were struck by that image of the early church and their generosity, and maybe it got you excited to hear about the work God is doing through our church and you feel like you want to be more involved in that. Maybe God is inviting you to start giving regularly here. Maybe he’s encouraging you to give for the first time, or to trust him by increasing your giving to a ten-percent tithe.


Or maybe you need to set aside a few hours of your week to generously help someone in your life that God is showing to you?


What is God saying to you, and how can you accept his invitation to join Jesus in his work this week?


Because the good news of Jesus is that ALL are invited to receive his grace and forgiveness. And ALL are then enabled to accept his invitation to follow him in his way of life. And ALL are able to be used by God to bring about his hope, and light, and love in the world around us.


And because of the power of God, we are able to be transformed by Jesus, together, for the sake of others. Isn’t that good news?