Have you ever known someone who knew a lot about the Bible but was not very loving?
Biblical teaching is one of our core values at Blue Oaks. We believe the authentic, Spirit-led teaching of God’s Word is the catalyst for life transformation.
The purpose of biblical teaching is not just to inform people. It’s not just to have people who are real smart about the Bible, although it’s necessary and important to be informed deeply about the Bible. But the ultimate purpose of biblical teaching is not just that. The purpose of biblical teaching is to help Christ be formed in people. That’s what we’ll talk about this week.
If you have your Bible or your Bible app turn to Acts 2.
Today we’re going to look at how Peter taught for the transformation of human life.
One of our core values at Blue Oaks is
And today we’re going to look at how God uses this kind of teaching — what we call Spirit-anointed teaching, Holy Spirit-empowered, inspired teaching — as a catalyst to change lives.
This comes right out of the passage we’re going to look at today. This truth comes right out of the beginning of the church.
And my guess is, there is not a person in this room who hasn’t had a life changing experience when you were at a church or a conference or a bible study and someone opened the Bible and began to teach and all of a sudden it was God speaking to you.
And it’s such a mystery. I don’t know why it happens or how it happens. But it happens. And it has happened for a lot of centuries.
And if I didn’t happen, a lot of us wouldn’t be in this room.
Let me say something about the purpose of biblical teaching.
Biblical teaching is not primarily about dispensing exegetical information.
It is not about my skill at holding an audiences attention.
It is not about a devotion to one particular style or method.
Biblical teaching is not a lecture on some interesting theological ideas.
The purpose of biblical teaching is to help Christ be formed in people.
And almost all of us in here know what it’s like to hear teaching that has changed lives.
Someone says, “My wife and I were ready to separate. I was ready to call the lawyer. Then I heard a message and I knew we couldn’t go down that road. So we called a marriage counselor.”
Or someone says, “I was ready to give up on the church. I felt so wounded and unloved. And I heard a message and it was as if God was speaking directly to me. You have no idea how that changed my life.”
Or someone says, “I didn’t know God. I was headed for an eternity apart from him. I can take you to the chair I was sitting in when God spoke to me and I became a Christian — where I gave my life to Jesus Christ.”
There is nothing in the world like this.
We gather here on Sunday where we have the opportunity to learn from God’s Word in a way that changes human lives. It really does!
And we get our model for this in Acts 2, when Peter teaches in the very beginning of the establishment of the Christian church.
And what I want to do now is read through this passage, and I’ll offer some commentary as we go through it… and then I want to talk about how we go about using teaching to change our lives.
So we’ll look at what it is that Peter says here, and then we’ll look at how do we use teaching practically so that we can be transformed.
Alright, let’s look at Acts 2, starting at verse 14:
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
Now, when Peter starts speaking, he does so because the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the disciples, and they have spoken in languages that are understood by people from all over the world who are gathered there.
And it says in verse 13 that many of those present sneered and said of the disciples:
“They have had too much wine.”
“They’re drunk, that’s why they’re doing this.”
So Peter says in verse 15: These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
Now again, part of what we need to recognize here is the power of Spirit-anointed teaching. Because this is not the kind of crowd that a teacher looks forward to addressing.
The first issue he has to deal with is what?
These people think the apostles have all gotten plastered and that’s why they’re speaking in different languages.
There’s a book called Flowing in the Holy Spirit. This is a true story from the book.
A woman intended to give a prophetic word to a church. And apparently she meant to use the word “Ichabod,” which is an Old Testament word that means “the glory of God has departed.”
But she got a little confused — she didn’t say “Ichabod, the glory of God has departed.” This is what came out:
She got up in front of this church. She’s going to give a prophetic word and she said, “The Lord would say to you, ‘I’ve taken my Spirit out of this church. Yes, I have written Michelob on the door.’”
Now, when Peter has to address this crowd, they think it’s a Michelob thing going on here… they think everyone’s drunk.
This is his starting point.
So as we’re going through this, just keep in mind, this is the kind of skepticism and hostility he faces as he begins to teach. This is what the Spirit of God is going to have to cut through.
Now, verse 16.
This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
He’s quoting the prophet Joel. He’s saying God has poured out His Spirit.
And, of course, the remarkable sign of this is that people who once could not understand each other are now able to understand each other.
And he says the Spirit is being poured out on all — both male and female.
Not only men, but women — almost unthinkable for that crowd — will be prophesying, will be speaking on behalf of God to the people.
And both young and old will dream dreams and see visions.
All the old barriers that separated the human race — ethnic barriers, linguistic barriers, gender barriers, generational barriers — all of those are just destroyed by the pouring out of the Spirit.
And now Peter is going to do the same thing that teachers have been doing for the last 2000 years. He’s simply going to tell the story of Jesus.
Fellow Israelites, 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.
This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 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.
David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope.”
These are marks of Spirit-anointed teaching.
Peter pulls no punches about their complicity in the death of Jesus.
And he’s very frank about human sin.
But he’s also very frank about hope — our hope is found in Jesus.
In fact, he uses a wonderful picture in verse 24 when he says it’s impossible for Him to be held in death’s power.
It’s like just as it’s impossible to hold back the child when the moment of birth has come, it’s impossible for death to hold Jesus back — He was too filled with life. God has raised Him up because death is just not strong enough.
So, on the one hand you have this horrible news about our fallen-ness and our sin, and it’s faced with brutal honesty.
But on the other hand you have this irrepressible hope, that’s based not on wishful thinking, but on the inevitability of the Resurrection, because death’s just not strong enough to hold Jesus back.
Look at verse 27 now:
Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
You have the great joy of life in Jesus.
Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.
Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
By the way, this was a key task of the apostles. At least five times in the Book of Acts it refers to being a witness of the Resurrection as a primary task of an apostle… because that’s our hope.
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection are central to Biblical teaching.
Exalted to the right hand of God,
Jesus has been therefore exalted to the right hand of God.
he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
And again, look at Peter’s absolutely courageous frankness. He ends his message here: “This Jesus, whom you crucified…”
Now, can you imagine for a moment the tension here? This is major confrontation.
And this is Peter, who not long before this not only avoided confrontation, but denied Jesus — he said that he’d never met Him. And he did it three times.
Now he’s facing a crowd of thousands of people who were sneering and hostile and skeptical.
And he not only tells them that he knows Jesus and identifies fully with Him, he tells them about the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, but then he ends his message by saying “This Jesus, whom you crucified…”
That’s what the Spirit has done in his life.
So what will the response be?
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Notice he didn’t say, “Go get your life straightened out and fix your problems, then be baptized.”
Peter has already experiencing the life-transforming power of the Spirit, and he wants them, as God wants all of us, to experience the life-transforming power of the gift of the Spirit.
And you don’t get your life straightened out before you do this. You simply repent, get baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Then he does the work of transforming your life with you.
And I got to tell you… this can happen for you today. It’s as close as your heart and your mind.
He goes on:
The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Now look at this amazing response — verse 41, as the Spirit is at work through the teaching of the word of God:
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
God uses Spirit-anointed teaching as a catalyst in spiritual transformation.
Okay, now I want to make two points about this. First:
Biblical teaching [or Spirit-anointed teaching] became absolutely foundational for the church.
When Jesus was giving the great commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, He tells them, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
But the part that often gets missed is what Jesus says next, “teaching them…” Teaching them to do what? Anyone know? “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
That’s the great commission.
The great commission is not just get everyone signed up to be a Christian.
The great commission that Jesus gave is: baptize people, make them disciples, and then teach them.
Jesus’ ministry was primarily a teaching ministry. He was involved in the renewing of people’s minds and the formation of their souls.
That was the fundamental thing Jesus did.
And then He was crucified for our sins and He was resurrected in an expression of the strength in His life.
And then He commissioned His followers to teach us to obey Him in all things.
Teaching was foundational to what Jesus did, and then He handed this off to His disciples. And it became foundational for the church.
In Acts 2:42, this verse we just read a moment ago, the first thing Luke tells us about the church is they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.
And then at the very end of Acts, the last verse, the last statement. Paul is in Rome, and it says he does these two things:
He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
From the beginning to the end of this story of the church in Acts, teaching is foundational. The people of the first century church devoted themselves to it.
And then this is so critical: the purpose of teaching is not just to inform people — it’s not just to have people who are real smart about the Bible.
Because here’s the problem with that. Have you ever known anyone who knew 10 times more of the Bible than the average person but was not 10 times more loving than the average person?
Now, it’s a very good thing to be informed deeply about the Bible — that’s necessary and important. But the ultimate purpose of teaching is not just that.
The ultimate purpose of biblical teaching is to help Christ be formed in people.
I want to give you a picture of what needs to happen in biblical teaching.
This is a line from a book by Garrison Keeler — Lake Woebegone.
He often talks about the church in Lake Woebegone. And there’s a pastor of a Lutheran church in Lake Woebegone by the name of Pastor Inkfist.
Pastor Inkfist has a critic by the name of Uncle Val. And this is his critique of Pastor Inkfist’s sermons.
He mumbles. He murmurs. It’s a lot of “on the one hand this, on the other hand that.” He never comes straight out and says it. He never puts the hay down where the goats can get it.
It’s a lot of talk and there are many Sundays where I can’t even remember what he said. I can’t even remember where he started from.
We never had that problem with the old preachers. There was never a moments doubt. It was repent or be damned. We need that.
This guy, he tries to please everybody. Just once in a while I wish he would raise his voice and pound on the pulpit so I knew he wasn’t talking in his sleep.
Now, the line that I like and that I find particularly helpful is, “Put the hay down where the goats can get it.”
And here’s what I think with that.
There are some teachers who have a lot of hay.
They have vast amounts of exegetical information.
They are theologically educated.
They may like to study ancient languages.
They may be used to an academic environment.
They can study for a long time.
Some teachers have a lot of hay… but they don’t know the goats.
They don’t know what questions the goats are asking.
They don’t know what the goats are talking about.
They don’t know what the goats are thinking about.
They don’t know what language the goats use.
What’s worse — they don’t even know they don’t know the goats.
And they’re often proud or kind of suspicious of teachers that are reaching a lot of goats.
And they sometimes take that they’re not reaching a lot of goats as a badge of honor… but the truth is — they don’t even like the goats.
And they forget that the first test of teaching is not what the teacher taught. It’s what has the learner learned. That’s the test.
They have all of this wonderful hay. But they forget that they are just stewards of the hay.
It’s their job to know the goats. And to love the goats. And to stay up awake at night thinking of ways to get the hay down where the goats can get it.
Now, it’s also true that there are sometimes very gifted communicators, and they know the goats, and they’re very clever about the goats. And they can draw a lot of goats and they can keep the goats attention. But they have no hay.
They have nothing of substance to say. They don’t study. They’re theologically uninformed. They don’t take being immersed in Scripture or being formed by it seriously. It’s superficial.
They have a lot of goats. But they don’t have any hay to give them.
And what’s worse — they don’t know they don’t have any hay to give.
But when you get someone who knows the goats and loves the goats; and knows the hay and loves the hay… and is able to get the hay right down where the goats can get it — that’s biblical teaching. That’s when God is at work.
And that’s what we strive for at Blue Oaks.
We want people who have a lot of hay; and we want people who are students of the goats. Who love them and want to be with them.
When that happens, that’s when lives change.
And that’s exactly what happens in Acts 2 when Peter teaches.
Now, what I want to do in the time we have left is address this issue of how do I receive teaching in a way that will really transform me.
If what often happens for people is they study a lot, they get a lot of information, but they get off-track with it… one of the classic statements Paul makes is, “knowledge puffs up.”
So often people gain knowledge, but it puffs them up.
Then how do I learn to receive teaching — how do I learn to study and so forth — in a way that will be transformational?
And I just want to look at two things that I believe are critical. First:
I must devote myself to learning in a repentant spirit.
We must devote ourselves to learning — not to gain a lot of knowledge so that we get proud about how much we know — I must receive teaching, I must learn, in a repentant spirit.
When I read the Bible, I must read the Bible in a repentant spirit… with a repentant heart.
Remember when Peter finished teaching this very first Spirit-anointed message to a group of people. What was the very next thing Luke said about them?
Take a look at it: Acts chapter 2 verse 37.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart…
They were cut to the heart.
Ask yourself this question:
Do I receive teaching as a student or as a consumer?
Do I receive teaching as a disciple, as a follower of Jesus, hungry to know more so that my life can be changed? Do I place myself before the teaching of God’s Word, the reading of God’s Word, and allow it to judge my life and change me?
Or do I approach it as a kind of consumer?
Several years ago I was teaching on a teaching team at another church, so I wasn’t the primary teacher like I am at Blue Oaks.
Well, there was one weekend when I had a lot of visitors come, including some of my family, to hear me teach.
And I found myself thinking more than I ought to, more than is healthy… about how I was doing as a teacher.
I was thinking, “How are people rating me at teaching?”
And after the service a woman came up to me and said, “I’ve heard four of the teaching pastors here, and I just want you to know, you’re my second favorite.”
And I said real frankly, “When you start doing that kind of thing, this comparison kind of thing, this rating thing, like this is a performance or a movie that you’re supposed to review, you do a disservice to the church and a disservice to me… so please don’t tell me things like that, mom.”
Old story — I don’t know if this happened or not. There was a teaching pastor who was leaving his church and a woman in the congregation was very sad about it. So the pastor said, “Don’t be sad, I’m sure the next teaching pastor who comes along will be better than me.”
She said, “That’s what they keep saying but they keep getting worse.”
Do I receive teaching as a student or a consumer?
We must devote ourselves to learning in a repentant spirit. We must allow God to cut us to the heart, if that’s what needs to happen.
Now… I read the Bible, I study the Bible, I listen to teaching, I read books, and so on… and as best as I can, I want to cultivate a spirit of utter openness before God.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to discern what’s truth or where someone is off base — of course we have to do that.
It doesn’t mean that if someone is teaching, and they don’t have a teaching gift, that that doesn’t need to get addressed — that needs to get addressed. I’m not saying anything like that.
I’m just saying that if we’re going to benefit from teaching, the starting place is I’ve got to receive it in a repentant spirit.
Then, if I want to be transformed by teaching, I must ask myself this question — and again, this comes right out of the text. Looking again at verse 37:
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
They hear this message from Peter, they’re cut to the heart… they hear it in a repentant spirit. They’re wide open; their defenses are down. And they ask Peter and the other disciples this wonderful question: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
What shall we do?
This is the key question for us to keep in mind as we devote ourselves to teaching… to studying the word of God.
How shall I respond? God, what do You want me to do?
This is why we encourage you to take next steps every week.
Now, understand this doesn’t mean you always have to keep a “to do” list of little tasks that you have to be working on.
Maybe what God wants you to do is just receive His love. Maybe He wants you to rest.
What this really means is:
I am committed to
Learning in a Spirit of humble responsiveness.
I must learn in a repentant spirit… and I must learn in a humbly responsive spirit.
God, what do You want me to do?
And so Peter says to them: “Repent.”
This is a wonderful word. Let me say a word or two about it, because people often think “repent” means primarily an emotional thing — you’re supposed to feel badly about what you’ve done. And there may be an emotional part to it, but mostly, it’s a word that has to do with thinking.
It comes from two words: one of them means “after” — “meta,” and then “noya” — has to do with your mind, or your thinking. It has to do with a new approach to thinking.
Paul puts it like this, in Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
In other words, in order to be transformed, to become a new kind of person, you must have a renewed mind.
Why do you need to have a renewed mind?
Here’s the brutal truth about it: you need to have a renewed mind because your mind doesn’t work right.
And neither does mine.
Now, I’ll tell you how this works, because it’s important to be clear on this.
Again, it’s not just the accumulation of information. This is an error that people often make. People think that as long as I’m getting more knowledge, I must be becoming more mature and more godly.
It’s not necessarily so.
And all you have to do is look at the Pharisees in Jesus’ day to see people who were getting a lot of knowledge and information, but they were not becoming more like God.
Just the opposite — they were becoming less and less like Him.
So it just becomes critically important. We have to devote ourselves to the Word of God. We have to devote ourselves to teaching. But we have to do it in the right way… because it can transform us, but it can do damage — used wrongly, it can do damage.
It will transform us as our minds are renewed by it.
Let me give you an example of how this works.
I was at a store recently, and there was a dad and his son. And this is going to sound harsh — these are the words he used.
You may not use harsh words like this, but I’m sure you’ve had the same kind of experience in your mind… and so have I.
This dad was furious with his son, because the dad was in a hurry and his son was slowing him down — a little four year old boy.
The dad said a series of things like, “You’re moving too slow. Can’t you walk any faster?”
And then, “Why can’t you keep up with me? I told you to keep up with me.”
And then, as his son would touch things on shelves, “Why do you keep touching things when I told you not to? Are you an idiot?” He said that to his son — a little four year old boy.
“Do you think I have nothing better to do than drag you through the store?”
Now, I know these are harsh words, and it may be that you’ve never used words this harsh; maybe you have, maybe you’ve used much harsher words.
But the truth is… let me just walk through this situation with this guy.
We could say to this guy, “You need to be more patient.”
We could shame him and guilt him… and it would be appropriate for him to experience some guilt.
But probably just saying, “Be more patient” is not going to do him much good… even if he wants to.
His problem is there’s something wrong with his mind.
When he’s in this store, he’s in a hurry.
He sees his son, and a whole series of perceptions and thoughts make their way through his mind. And we can guess pretty well what they are. They’re things like:
I’m in a hurry.
I’m a busy person with things to do.
I have other things to worry about.
This kid is getting in my way.
He’s just too slow.
I could do this much more quickly and easily if he wasn’t here.
Now, these thoughts lead to a series of feelings: frustration, irritation, resentment, even rage.
And it just leaks out of him.
And trying to control his behavior by willpower would only go so far.
He needs a new mind.
When he’s in that situation… he needs a whole new series of thoughts that are not yet occurring to him to begin to occur to him.
When you have a new mind, what happens is new thoughts that you wouldn’t have thought about before begin to occur to you.
And other thoughts that would have flooded your mind before just don’t enter in anymore.
He needs to have thoughts like these going through his mind… thoughts like:
What does it feel like to be four years old boy in a grocery store?
Thoughts like… How will my words mark this little heart?
Or thoughts like… I have nothing better to do right now than to be with this little boy… in this place… at this moment.
Thoughts like… This is an opportunity for God to do his work in my life.
See, if those thoughts were running through his mind, then he would be a different person. He would be living a different kind of life.
The problem with us is not just our behavior. It’s not just that we do wrong things. There is something wrong with our minds.
We need to have the mind of Christ.
And, of course, this is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But one of the means that the Spirit uses is teaching, Spirit-anointed teaching, for the renewal of our minds.
The word of God is used for the renewal of our minds.
And real quickly… I just want to talk through one way that we can do this. And I’ll invite us to do this this week.
And that is:
Reflect on God’s word
Reflect on biblical teaching. Allow it to kind of build a nest inside your mind and heart.
For example — I’ll just use an example from the passage we looked at today.
I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Let’s say you have a sense that it would be helpful to have that teaching become a part of your mind… for your mind to be renewed by the truth that God is with you. He’s at your right hand, therefore you should not fear.
How do you do that?
Well, you start by reflecting on that truth — “God is at my right hand. I will not be shaken.”
And you carry that little phrase with you throughout the day. Maybe you set aside a few moments in the morning to repeat it, until you remember it, until you memorize it.
You just reflect on these words and let them become part of your thinking.
“The Lord is always before me. Now what would it look like if I were to wake up first thing in the morning and, instead of being overwhelmed by how much I have to do, or worried about something, I knew that God was right there with me.
“And as I greeted people first thing in the day, God is right there. And as I go to work, maybe something bad happens — someone challenges me, or a project doesn’t go well, or I’ve got financial problems — but the Lord is at my right hand and, therefore, I’m not shaken.”
And you picture yourself going through your day “not shaken.” God is there with hope and love and peace and joy.
And here’s what happens, over time, in your mind. You start to think:
“I guess I really do want God. Not just because I’m supposed to try to do right things or believe right things, but I really do want God.”
And His Word starts to move from your mind to your heart. And then it starts to move into your will, and you find yourself saying:
“I’ve got to have this kind of life. God, whatever you need to do, help me move toward this kind of life.”
My suggestion is that you take words like these from Acts 2 and write them down. Put them on your desk at work. Or in your car.
Put them somewhere so you can see them and reflect on them… so that they begin to transform your thinking.
Alright, so that’s the challenge this week — get intentional about the thoughts you put into your mind.
Let’s not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but let’s be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This happens by reflecting on Scripture.
Alright, let’s pray and then Michaela and the team will lead us in a closing.
Blue Oaks Church