East Side Church
(Baptist - Disciples of Christ)
201 Spruce Ave.
Sharon, PA 16146
724-981-4223
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September 8, 2013
"What You Now See and Hear"
Acts 2:1-21, 32-33

Intro : Many doubts voiced about truth, relevance of Christianity. Series addressing some of those questions. Dealing w/actual objections made by Christianity's skeptics. So far, discovered there were actual OT prophecies about Messiah which were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth , which speaks to a deep heart need: We desire wonder, awe, to provide meaning beyond everyday life! Last week, we discovered there were actual eyewitnesses who recorded the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth , which speaks to another deep heart need: We desire truth instead of treachery!

Peter's Claim! Again, we're returning to very first Christian sermon in history. Peter declared that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified two months earlier, had risen from dead. Today, want to examine another claim Peter makes in this sermon: The Holy Spirit is active within the church, and His activity is something that can be observed with human eyes and ears! (Review Acts 2:1-21; Read Acts 2:32-33.) Repeat claim. To put it another way, if God is truly at work in the Christian church, we should see good results!

The Demand for Evidence from Contemporary Critics!
Richard Dawkins : 1) "Religious fanatics want people to switch off their own minds, ignore the evidence, and blindly follow a holy book based upon private 'revelation." 2) "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."

Christopher Hitchins : 1) "What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof." 2) "God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization." - Christopher Hitchens

Dawkins and Hitchens charge that religious people believe despite evidence. Hitchens claims religion has "retarded the development of civilization." Today, tackling two claims at once: Is there evidence that the Christian Church has benefitted civilization?

First, the Bad News!
First, must admit that Christian Church has participated in horrendous things. Crusades, Inquisition, sex scandals. (Read Matthew 7:21.) True; but genuine Christians have sinned. Difference? Christians do have a history of honestly confessing sins making restitution beyond "getting caught" by humans. Higher moral authority! Christianity forgives sin, but Christianity at its best does not downplay sin's seriousness, especially its own! Anger directed towards Christian church over the past few decades springs out of a deep, legitimate heart desire: We desire genuine goodness instead of self-serving hypocrisy!

Then, the Good News!
Is there any evidence that the Christian Church has benefitted civilization? Evidence that the Christian Church promotes genuine goodness far more than self-serving hypocrisy?

First Way the Christian Church Has Been a Good Thing for World: Societal Reform!

1) Jesus' teaching! Sermon on the Mount the highest moral code conceived! Not just doing the right things, but for the right reasons! Evaluates our heart motivations! Is a high moral code a good thing? Christianity has something to do with that!

2) Church throughout history promoted health care! Dr. Chris R. Armstrong, Managing Editor of Christian History , regarding church's role in the history of healthcare. "As I began studying the topic I discovered two unexpected things: first, the church was much more influential in the history of healthcare than I had expected; and second, the modern hospital can be traced directly back to ancient and medieval Christian institutions." Is health care a good thing? Christianity had something to do with that!

3) The Scientific Revolution! Peter Harrison, "A God of Math and Order": "What caused the Scientific Revolution? How did science advance from the relatively static medieval philosophies of nature to the dynamic technologies of modern science? Secular historians have argued that the church opposed this progress at every turn. But in fact a set of new theological ideas ushered in the scientific innovations of men like Galileo, Descartes, and Newton...Theological ideas underpinned some of (modern science's) central assumptions. Those who argue that science and religion are at odds will draw little comfort from history. When modern science assumes mathematical laws and the constancy of nature-assumptions essential to its development-it echoes the theological presuppositions that attended its birth." Is scientific progress a good thing? Christianity had something to do with that!

4) Universities! Direct connection between Christianity and higher education! Bruce Shelly, Church History in Plain Language : "Schools in these (European) cathedrals gave birth to medieval universities." Oxford in England started by religious orders. In our own country, Princeton, Yale and Harvard were all started by Christians. Is a solid university education a good thing? Christianity had something to do with that!

5) Christianity's impact on England in the 1800s! Mark Galli, "Fishing for Compassion": "In the early 1800s, Britain was a superpower rolling in wealth. Yet impersonal forces-specifically the Industrial Revolution and the international slave trade-conspired to destroy lives. The masses of England seemed doomed to perpetual poverty, and thousands upon thousands of Africans (and more each year) were locked in perpetual servitude...William Wilberforce... Elizabeth Fry... Robert Raikes (and) Thomas Chalmers (are) Christians largely forgotten in our day. Yet before the century ended, nearly everything they touched had improved: prisons, medical care, education, factory conditions, slums. And decades before Americans started shedding uncountable gallons of blood over slavery, the English had simply outlawed it. If these Christians didn't bring in the kingdom of heaven, they did make England more just. And if they didn't solve every social problem (and certainly, like all successful reformers, they created a few along the way), at least they made life bearable for millions and saved the lives of millions more." Is making society more just, more compassionate a good thing? Is reducing human misery a good thing? Christianity had something to do with that! Even today, many humanitarian organizations were started by Christians: World Vision, Compassion Int'l, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, to name a few.

Second Way the Christian Church Has Been a Good Thing for the World: Revival!

What was the source for all these good things? According to Peter's sermon, it was the Holy Spirit poured out on the church! (Read Acts 2:32-33, Galatians 5:22-23.) Pentecost was not a once and for all event! Many times throughout history when Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, where there is an actual "felt" sense of God's presence, bringing new spiritual life and enthusiasm to professing church members, and bringing sinners under conviction, birthing repentance and faith. Example: Great Awakening of 1700s. Season of unusual power in the spread of the Gospel, growth of Church Thousands converted under the preaching of George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards. Revivals (not to be confused with preplanned "crusades,") are times when it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is at work in and through the church. Why are we seeing so little interest in spiritual things today? Christians need to devote themselves to praying for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that when it comes, with confidence we can make Peter's claim: "Exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear!"

Conclusion: This sermon has provided just a few examples of how the Christian Church is a good thing for the world, has been a benefit to society. All of these good effects within history demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is active within the church, and His activity is something that can be observed with human eyes and ears! This evidence does not just appeal to our reason. It can also speak to our deep heart need: We desire genuine goodness instead of self-serving hypocrisy!

Non-Christians: Won't you humble yourself, ask the Holy Spirit to work genuine goodness in your hearts? Trust Jesus as your Savior from sin!

Christians: Won't you humble yourself, ask Christ to pour out His Spirit on His Church once again? Allow no corner of your heart to remain unexamined; confess your sin to our Lord and Savior. Selfishness, hypocrisy are ugly things! Our world hungers for genuine goodness! God desires to be glorified through the good deeds of His people!



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