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Acts #34 (chapter 9:36-43)
The Book of Acts
The Personal Ministry of Peter (part 2)
Acts 9:36-43
 
We began last week a study of Acts 9:32-43 that identifies six characteristics of the Peter that made his ministry so effective.  It is an interesting study because there is such a marked difference between the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter we see here in Acts. 
 
As I said last week, from Peter we learn all kinds of lessons about how to serve and minister, both positive and negative ones. We learn how not to do it in the gospels and how to do it in the book of Acts. 
 
Now, last week I intended to begin with a testimony that Peter shared at the end of his life, but I became discombobulated due in part to writing in my notes both 1 Peter 2 and 2 Peter 1.  To complicate it even more, the verses I wanted to read were 12-21, so I had all these 1's and 2's to keep up with and they got the best of me!  
 
But I think I have it tonight, so I'll try again! 
 
2 Peter 1:12-21
 
Now here we see Peter's heart.  First, in verse 12, we see
 
 - personal concern
 
Peter genuinely cares about the spiritual welfare of those to whom he ministers. He is not satisfied to just teach and walk away. 
He says, "I want you to know this. That's why I'm repeating it.  I know you've heard it before, but I'm going to keep reminding you because I care about you."
 
The second thing that he expresses here is
 
- personal urgency
 
In verse 14 he is telling them, "I know I'm about to die.  My time is short to do what I need to do."
 
He knows he doesn't have long, and he wants them to remember what he's taught, even after he's gone.  (verse 15)
 
The third thing that characterized Peter's ministry was
 
- personal experience
 
verse 16
 
I'm not giving you secondhand information.  I'm telling you what I know. By the way, as he explains in verses 17-18, he was talking about the transfiguration. 
 
Then he adds to that the fourth things which is
 
- personal knowledge
 
Any spiritual experience we have must be validated with Scripture or it is to be rejected.  If what you've experienced is not consistent with the teachings of Scripture it is not from God and that's what Peter says in
verse 21
 
In fact, in verse 19, he calls this "a more sure word." More sure than what? Experience. So Peter says to begin with as I look at my own life there are four things that are needful. Personal concern, personal urgency, personal experience and personal knowledge, and if I have those four things I'm ready for an effective personal ministry.
 
Now, with that in mind, let's go back to Acts 9 and  see how that ministry expressed itself in practical terms.  There are six characteristics of Peter's life and ministry found in these verses.  We covered two of them last week where we saw,
 
- He got involved, and
 
- He honored Christ.
 
Any ministry at any level that makes any difference eternally always contains those two elements.  You've got to get involved and you've got to make sure God gets the glory from what is done. 
 
Then, notice what comes next:
 
Acts 9:36-43
 
Right off the bat, we see that
 
3.  He was available
 
This one should have probably come first, when you get right done to it, because the only thing we have to offer God is our availability. 
If we have no power or energy or authority in which to do ministry, then really all we can do is make ourselves available to God for Him to use as He sees fit.  I hear so many Christians who say, "Well, I would do this or that, but I don't have the time" or "My schedule just won't allow it".  "I'm too busy." 
 
Well you got that right!  If you're too busy to be available to the Lord, then you're definitely too busy! 
If you're not available, you're not anything.
 
Notice what happens here in the text.  I'll read down through verse 40, and then pick out a couple of things to mention from those verses. 
 
verses 36-40
 
So Peter's down in this little place called Lydda, and we are introduced to a woman named Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, who is up in Joppa.  All of this is setting the stage for a miracle that's about to take place where this woman will be raised back to life.
 
This woman is a wonderful woman!  She loves the Lord, she is full of good works, she does a lot of things to help people. 
 
But she gets sick and dies, and it's a sad day for the church.  And we are told that did everything they were supposed to do to prepare her for burial such as washing the body and all that.  But they didn't bury her, which was kind of unusual.  Typically bodies were immediately buried after the ceremonial washing because they were not embalmed.  But in this case, they don't.  Instead, they take her upstairs and surround her with mourners and blankets. 
 
So why didn't they immediately bury her?  
 
verse 38 tells us. 
 
They know Peter's nearby, and they know Peter has the power to raise the dead God so wills.  So rather than burying her, in an act of great faith, they take her body upstairs and send a summons to Peter to come immediately. 
 
And verse 39 tells us that Peter went with those who came to get him. And the implication is he dropped everything he was doing and immediately went to the house to where her body was lying.
 
Now here's what I want you to see:  Obviously, this miracle hinges on the power of God but it also involves the availability of Peter. At this particular time in church history, God worked miracles through His apostles, so it could have been any one of them.  But Peter happens to be close by in Joppa.  He is available.
 
And by the way, it's not some big evangelistic meeting or debate about doctrine.  This isn't a meeting of the Jew at Jerusalem or an appearance before Roman dignitaries.  It's just a bunch of little, old ladies who are upset because their friend has died. 
 
Obviously, there is more going on that that, but the point is, Peter was available.  He could have said, "She's better off than ever!  She's with the Lord. You widows just pick up the slack and get along without here."
 
He just got up and went. He dropped everything. That is a reminder that when God says, "Go," that's the time to go.  And unfortunately, too many times our plans are more important than God's!  We do what we want to do, and don't even listen or acknowledge it when God tells us to "go".
 
Verse 38 says they implored him not to delay and he got up and went.  He was available.
 
Peter was involved, He honored Christ, and he was available. 
 
4.  He was Powerful
 
verses 40-41
 
Now, that's a miracle!  She's been dead for at least 36 to 48 hours, and all ofo a sudden, Peter shows up, says, "Arise," and everything happening in her body reverses.  All the rot and the decay that had begun to set in was reversed, and she emerges fresh, clean, and whole because God performed a miracle! 
 
So from where did the power to perform the miracle come?  Verse 40 tells us he knelt down and prayed. 
Again we are reminded that the power was not of Peter, but of God. 
 
Knowing Peter, there could have been a tendency to think he had the power to do things on his own.  After all, he'd been going around healing people.  They were bringing multitudes of sick folk to him to be healed.  They'd lay the sick in the streets just so the shadow from Peter's body would fall on them.
 
It would've been very easy at this point in Peter's life with so many successes to just go in and say, "Tabitha, arise," and count on his own strength. But you know what would have happened? Not a thing.   
 
That is a temptation we all deal with.  You get a little advanced in your years with God and maybe start teaching or preaching or you lead someone to the Lord or go on mission trips and see lots of stuff going on and there is a tendency to think you did it. 
 
But you didn't do nothing!  I don't do anything!  We accomplish nothing on our own.  We are simply available and prayerful and God shows up with the power!
 
And when Peter knelt down and prayed, he was saying, "God, I acknowledge Your power! You do it."
And God did!  Peter took her by the hand, and lifted her up and called her friends together to rejoice in what God had done!
 
And as a result of the miracle, we see the fifth characteristic,
 
5.  He was fruitful
 
verse 42
 
This miracle was done for evangelistic reasons.  It sure wasn't done for Dorcas.  Can you imagine God in heaven saying, "Sorry, hon, you're going to have to leave us and go back to earth for a while."
 
 
 
I'm sure she was glad her friends were not longer mourning her death.  You know they were rejoicing because the one they loved was back alive!  But God had a whole different objective in mind. He performed this miracle through Peter for the same reason all of the other miracles were done, as confirming signs to prove to the world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true.
 
God had evangelism in mind. He always does. This is God's process of bringing people to Christ. Old Peter sold out to the Lord and got involved in ministry with the intention of making sure Christ is honored.  
 
And one day, he is called upon to drop everything and rush to Joppa because there's a bunch of weeping widows up there.  They are crying their eyes out because their friend has died. 
 
Peter goes to where she is, kneels down and prays.  God intervenes in the situation and raises her to life and as a result of that miracle, people get saved!  Peter has the privilege of bearing the fruit that is produced through that experience.  
 
He did the miracle through the power of God and God honored his availability with fruit. 
 
One final characteristic.  Peter was involved, he honored Christ, he was avialable, he was powerful, he was fruitful, and
 
6.  He was free from prejudice
 
verse 43
 
So what?  What does that have to do with being free from prejudice?  Just this:  one of the most despicable trades in the mind of a Jew was that of a tanner, because a tanner had to touch dead animals.  And no self-respecting Jew would have anything to do with a tanner. He was despised. 
 
In fact, under Jewish law, if a woman had a husband who took on the trade of a tanner, she was free to divorce him.  Not only was a tanner not respected, he was ceremonially unclean.
 
But Peter, who's a Jew, and who's been a Jew all his life, who's been trained and raised in all the prejudices and all the traditions, in all of the Old Testament attitudes, stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner. 
 
These are tough days for old Peter!  First, he's got to  go down to Samaria and embrace the Samaritans.  In chapter 10, he's going to have to accept the Gentiles and extend his hand to Cornelius and call him brother, and before long, God's going to confront him with a whole picnic of pigs and sheep and all kinds of animals and listen as God tells him to "dig in!'
 
But Peter is coming to be the man God wants him to be.  So Peter spends many days in Joppa with Simon, who was a tanner.
 
And if you and I will ever be effective in ministry, we're going to have to lose any prejudices we have and remember that God is no respecter of persons and we have no right to be either.
 
 
We've got to learn to love people and to accept them in the same way Jesus did.  He didn't like their sin, but He sure did and does love folk!  And prejudice needs to die if you're going to have an effective personal ministry. Break down the walls and ask God to help you if you've got some prejudice.
 
Well, those are the marks of Peter's effective ministry. They worked for him and they'll work for us.  Be involved. Be Christ-exalting. Be available. Be prayerful. Be fruitful, and free from prejudice and God will bless.
 
Let's pray.
 
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