The God Who Heals
(2 Chron. 7:13-16; Acts 9:1-9, 17-18; Mark 5:25-34;
Mark 2:1-12; Matt. 6:25-34)
“The movie Simon Birch follows a boy with stunted growth who has a clear sense that God has an important plan for his life. Little Simon is often met with obstacles and opposition, but he plods on through life until he really does become a hero.
Simon and his friend Joe do everything together, even though they are an odd pair. The unlikely Simon is always talking about the great plans God has for his life, but Joe is always doubtful. Joe has been deeply wounded by growing up without a father, and simply cannot move from cynicism to true faith.
Early in the movie, Simon and Joe are heading home from the swimming hole. As Simon and Joe wander through a field of wildflowers, they turn to discussing destiny and the role of faith.
Simon: But things will be different…once God makes me a hero.
Joe: You know, you shouldn't talk about this hero stuff, Simon.
Simon: Why not?
Joe: Because it's weird. The other kids tease you enough as it is.
Simon: I don't care. It's the truth.
Joe: But you don't have any proof.
Simon: I don't need proof, I have faith. Your problem is that you have no faith.
Joe: I got faith. I just want proof to back it up.
In the end, Simon does become a great hero, even though it leads to his death. Many years later, as Joe reflects on Simon's life, he can't help but finally move to a place of faith as well.
Elapsed time: DVD scene 6, 00:17:13–00:17:43. Rated PG
Simon Birch (Buena Vista 1998), written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson; submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California.
Our natural desire is to have proof of God’s existence or to have Him speak to us before we’ll take a step of faith
Often times, but not always, God is waiting for us to take the step of faith toward Him, before He does the miraculous or speaks to us
In the midst of difficulties, it can be hard to have faith in God’s ability to heal spiritually, physically, and financially
As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to take the necessary steps of faith, toward God, even when we have spiritual doubts, physical illness, and financial struggles. Our natural desire will be to demand signs from God before we move in faith. Now more than every we need to remember that . . .
BIG IDEA – God has the power to heal every area of our lives.
Today’s message is going to be done in a way that is different than usual. We are going to look at healing in three areas: spiritual, physical, and financial. As we complete each area, we are going to spend time praying through the Scriptures we’ve looked at and then responding in worship.
Spiritual Healing (Acts 9:1-19; 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
There are certainly many passages of Scripture we could use to talk about spiritual healing
I’ve only chosen two passages
One will focus on spiritual healing for those who have never believed in Jesus
The second passage focuses on believers who have turned away from the Lord
Unsaved (Acts 9:1-19)
Read Acts 9:1-19
We are all familiar with this story of Saul’s conversion (we know Saul by his Greek name, Paul)
He was zealous for God and the Jewish way of religion, but Jesus’ arrival on earth had transformed religion to a relationship with Jesus
Change came hard for the religious leaders (chief priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees)
They continued to try to stop the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and Saul was the ring leader
But everything changed on the road to Damascus
Saul had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus
Jesus arrested him and stopped him in his tracks
We see the glory of God surrounding Saul, and Jesus questioning him
God’s glory temporarily blinded Saul – that’s how magnificent His glory is
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s glory is beyond compare (magnificent)!
Ananias used by God
God used a follower of Jesus Christ to restore Saul’s sight
God used Ananias to bring physically healing to Saul’s eyes
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
This is an important principle for us to understand
PRINCIPLE #2 – God uses His people to help others come to Jesus.
We learn from this interaction that Saul was God’s chosen instrument to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles and their kings
Saul was transformed
We see Saul praying, basically for three days’ straight
I’m guessing that his prayers were different now
After having his sight restored, Saul gets baptized
This was an outward expression of an inward decision
He was showing those, who were traveling with him and the believers in Damascus, that he had changed
He was now going to experience being on the other side of persecution
Salvation – the Good News
With Saul, we see a complete 180 degree turn from trying to kill followers of Jesus Christ to sharing with everyone about Jesus Christ
That is what repentance is – a 180 degree turn away from sin and running to Jesus
We’ve all sinned – lying, stealing, blasphemer, adulterer and murderer in our hearts (Romans 3:23)
Punishment for sin is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23)
God is loving and just
Loving (Romans 5:8)
Just – He has to punish sin
Ecclesiastes 3:17, I thought in my heart, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.” (NIV)
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice
His death, burial, and resurrection opened the way for us to be in a right relationship with God
Read Hebrews 10:13-24
Being spiritually healed
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I encourage you to take that step of faith today into spiritual healing
Prayer for salvation (encourage anyone who has never believed to pray after me)
We looked at being spiritually healed for the first time, but we also need to look at being spiritually healed as believers (it’s different concept)
Saved (2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-16
The Lord spoke to Solomon after he had completed the temple and the royal palace
God was basically telling Solomon that the Israelites would turn away from worshiping Him
God gave Solomon a picture of what the discipline of His children would look like
There would be droughts (no rain)
Locusts (bugs) would eat up their produce and grain
Plague among His people
God also shared what steps the Israelites would need to take to stop His discipline of them
Identifies those He is talking to (God’s people, called by His name)
What they would need to do
Humble themselves (put away pride and selfishness)
Pray – talking to God
Seek my face – turning to God instead of anything else
Turn from their wicked ways (repentance)
He will see and hear from heaven
He will forgive their sins
1 John 1:9
We see here the spiritual healing that takes place
He will heal their land
This passage really addresses all three areas of healing
When God says He will heal their land, we have to go back to see what His discipline entailed – the drought and locusts would have devastated their economy/finances – and God promises to bring healing to their finances
The plague would have affected their physical health and God promises to bring physical healing
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
The physical and financial healing will be developed more in the next two points
For now, we need to focus on the spiritual healing aspect
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, thank You that Your glory is reflected in/through . . .” (Acts 9:3)
Prayer Prompter: “Almighty God, thank You that You have the power to . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:13)
Prayer Prompter: “Dear Lord, I confess that I have persecuted You when . . .” (Acts 9:4)
Prayer Prompter: “Righteous Father, I confess that I have not ________ (humbled, prayed, sought Your face, or turn from my wicked ways), please forgive me.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Prayer Prompter: “Gracious God, please help me to hear Your voice and obey Your leading with . . .” (Acts 9:17)
Prayer Prompter: “Loving Lord, I am committing today to __________ (seek humility, pray, seek Your face, repent of my wickedness) so that I can experience Your promise(s) of healing ___________ (spiritually, physically, financially).” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Prayer Prompter: “Precious Savior, help me to obediently take the next step of faith by . . .” (Acts 9:18)
Prayer Prompter: “Faithful Father, thank You that Your eyes are open and Your ears are attentive when I cry out to You about . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:15)
SONG: Jesus Messiah
Physical Healing (Mark 5:25-34; Mark 2:1-12)
I believe that as we take the step of faith into spiritual healing that God promises to sustain and provide for us physically and financially
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel
Jesus never promised us that following Him would be easy, spiritually, physically, or financially – you won’t find that in Scripture
But, we know that the all-powerful, Creator of the universe is now our Heavenly Father and He watches over His children and promises to sustain us and provide for us through difficult times
“In my experience, signs follow decisions. The way you overcome spiritual inertia and produce spiritual momentum is by making tough decisions. And the tougher the decision, the more potential momentum it will produce. The primary reason most of us don't see God moving is simply because we aren't moving. If you want to see God move, you need to make a move!
I cannot promise that signs will follow your faith in three minutes or three hours or three days. But when you take a step of faith, signs will follow. God will sanctify your expectations, and you will begin to live your life with holy anticipation. You won't be able to wait to see what God is going to do next.”
Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase (Multnomah, 2008), pp. 32-33
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is pleased when His people step out in faith.
Individual Faith (Mark 5:25-34)
Read Mark 5:25-34
The woman’s ailment
We know that this woman had been dealing with a bleeding issue for 12 years
She had probably sought out the best physicians of the day
None of them were able to help, but she kept getting worse
She was out of options and money
The woman’s faith
Notice that the woman isn’t seeking recognition, but simply expresses her faith in thought
She knows who Jesus is and His reputation of having healing power
She believes that simply touching His cloak will release His healing power to her
She is correct!
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she knew it physically
I really appreciate her incredible faith in Jesus’ healing power
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
Jesus realized that healing power had left His body and so He asked who touched His clothes
The disciples didn’t understand, because many people probably touched His clothes since they were crowding around Him
When the woman fearfully identifies herself, Jesus affirms her faith, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
I like that this potentially shy and reserved woman could quietly express her faith by simply touching Jesus’ cloak
Mark also records another physical healing that Jesus performed, but the entrance was much more dramatic
Corporate Faith (Mark 2:1-12)
Read Mark 2:1-12
People heard that Jesus had returned home and they wanted to be around Him
He was preaching to a packed house, so much so, that this group of friends couldn’t get their paralyzed friend to Jesus
So, they went up on the roof, dug a hole in the roof, and lowered their paralyzed friend right in front of Jesus
Jesus recognized the faith of the group of friends and the paralytic, so He told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven (spiritual healing!)
That didn’t sit well with some teachers of the law, but that didn’t matter to Jesus
He then tells the paralytic to get up, take his mat, and go home, which he does
Jesus told the man to get up, take his mat, and go home, so that the people would understand that He was God and had the authority on earth to forgive sins
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
Prayer Prompter: “Jesus, thank You for revealing Your omnipotence (all-powerful) in my life by/through . . .”
Prayer Prompter: “Jesus, please forgive me for doubting Your ability to know everything, especially when it comes to ________ in my life.” [Mark 5:31]
Prayer Prompter: “Precious Savior, I confess that I am currently skeptical about Your power to forgive the sins of __________ (name the person specifically).” [Mark 2:10]
Prayer Prompter: “Dear Lord, help me to have faith in Your healing power as I struggle with . . .”
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, thank You that You promise to give me peace as I step out in faith concerning . . .” [Mark 5:34]
Financial Healing (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 6:38; Malachi 3:6-12; 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
Financial struggles, especially with COVID-1 (Coronavirus pandemic)
I think we would all be kidding ourselves if we said that we weren’t concerned about our financial future with state and federal “stay-at-home” orders.
God’s part (Matthew 6:25-32)
Read Matthew 6:25-32
God’s provision of food
He takes care of the food needs for birds, who don’t sow, reap, or store food away in barns
He says that we are more valuable than birds, which means that He will provide for us
We may not know how it will happen, but it will
Upper Adams Food Pantry, Gettysburg Soup Kitchen, New Hope Mobile Food Pantry
Generosity of family, neighbors, or friends from church
God’s provision of clothing
God provides beautiful dressings for the fields through flowers
The dressing of the fields is temporary and He says that He will clothe us even more
As God’s children He says that we are valuable to Him and He will provide for us
Discipline of His children (2 Chron. 7:13; Malachi 3:6-9)
As His children, He will also discipline us, just like a parent with their child(ren)
As we already saw in 2 Chronicles 7:13, He will bring about droughts, and devouring bugs, and plagues as a way to get the attention of His children, so they will turn back to Him
Read Malachi 3:6-9
In Malachi 3:6-9 we see that we are under a curse for turning away from the Lord and robbing Him by not giving our tithes and offerings
God’s part is to provide and discipline, but we have a part to play also
Our part (Matthew 6:33a; Malachi 3:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14a)
Seek God’s kingdom first
Seek God’s righteousness first
What has first place in your life above God’s kingdom and righteousness?
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse
For the Israelites this was the first fruits of all their labors (field and flock/grain and animal)
To what or whom are you giving your first fruits instead of giving it to God?
2 Chronicles 7:14a
Seek God’s face
Turn from our wicked ways
When we obediently do our part, God promises us certain things
God’s promises (Matthew 6:33b; Malachi 3:11-12; 2 Chronicles 7:14b)
All these things will be given to you as well
God promises to provide our every need (food & clothing)
God will prevent pests from devouring their crops (livelihood)
God will make sure that nothing is wasted
Other nations will call them blessed
2 Chronicles 7:14b
God will hear and see from heaven
God will forgive our sins
God will heal our land
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, since You never change, I worship You because/for . . .” [Malachi 3:6]
Prayer Prompter: “Heavenly Father, thank You that you value me more than . . .” [Matthew 6:26, 30]
Prayer Prompter: “Precious Savior, I confess that I seek ________ first instead of Your kingdom and righteousness.” [Matthew 6:33]
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, please forgive me for using my first fruits on _________ instead of giving them to You as a tithe and offering.” [Malachi 3:8-9]
Prayer Prompter: “God, will You please help my faith to grow through _________ (difficult situation), so I will trust You more.” [Matthew 6:30]
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, help me to take the step of faith to test You concerning robbing You of ________ (time, talents, or resources),” [Malachi 3:10]
Prayer Prompter: “Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me and providing for me through . . .”
SONG: God Will Take Care Of You
My Next Step Today Is To:
Believe in Jesus and receive God’s gift of eternal life (spiritual healing)
Step out in faith and trust God to heal me physically (physical healing)
Trust God to provide for my every need, even during difficult times (financial healing)
“Every other Tuesday, Maria Lopez would come to clean my house.
Maria always arrived like a bubble of energy determined to restore order to my universe, scrubbing as though it were an act of worship.
As we became acquainted, I learned that Maria was a pastor's daughter from Peru who had no family in the United States. I had only been a Christian a few years and appreciated Maria's enthusiastic faith. She prayed out loud while she cleaned, and sang praise songs in Spanish while she scrubbed. She praised Jesus everywhere she went.
One Tuesday, Maria didn't show up for work. I anticipated seeing her cheery face the following day. But no one came.
When she didn't arrive the next day, I called. No one answered the phone.
This is so unlike her, I thought. She's so reliable. There must be a good reason.
On the third day, a nurse called to say Maria was at the hospital. Alarmed, I cut some flowers and drove to Northridge Hospital to find out what was wrong. I found Maria sitting up in bed, rocking back and forth with her head encased in a heavy iron cage resting on her shoulders. Her eyes were closed, and tears streamed down her cheeks. Touching her arm gently, I held out the flowers. She clutched them to her chest.
"What's that around your head, Maria?"
"Oooh, Meessus," she moaned, touching the iron contraption, "it is the torture of Satan."
Puzzled, I turned to the nurse. She explained, "It's called a halo. It's screwed and bolted directly into the skull in four different places. It isn't pleasant."
"How long must you wear it?" I asked Maria.
"Five months, my doctor say, maybe. But Meessus, you tell him, Maria, she no live five months with thees in her head. She die. You tell him, yes?"
"I'll talk to him, Maria. Anything else I can do for you?"
"Yes, Meessus. My Bible." She pointed to the bedside table. "Please, you read to me."
I started reading John 14. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."
Out in the corridor, I found Maria's doctor. "Why is she wearing that hideous device?" I asked him.
"Because, to put it simply, if she didn't," he said, "her head would fall off. Maria has cancer. Her neck bones have degenerated to the point where they can no longer support her head."
"Can they be repaired? Or regenerated?" He shook his head gravely.
"It means we can't ever take it off. Maria will have to get used to living with it."
Every week when I visited, Maria asked me to pray with her and read from the Bible. She always requested the same chapter from the New Testament: John 14. Weeks turned into months. The heavy metal halo was crippling.
During one visit, months after being admitted to the hospital, Maria clutched my hands and whispered, "God tells Maria it won't be long. Soon, he say, we take this off."
Before I left the hospital, I stopped at the nurses' desk to ask how much longer Maria would be there. A nurse said they were preparing papers to release [her]. Maria doesn't have insurance or enough money to stay in the hospital. That's why they're releasing her.
Maria panicked when the doctor told her she must leave. "No! You take new x-ray." Touching the halo she cried, "You take this torture from me! I no leave with this!"
"There is really no point," he insisted. "Nothing has changed."
When I returned to the hospital two days later to pick up Maria, I was surprised to find her sitting in a chair, beaming ear to ear. "I no leave today," she said.
"Why not, Maria? Have you had your x-ray?"
"Yes. But I stay until they take this off." She rolled her eyes toward the halo.
Hasn't anyone told Maria what will happen when they take the halo off? It was my turn to panic. I can't tell her. Her despair will be overwhelming.
I cornered the doctor. "She won't leave until you take the halo off. What do we do?"
"We'll take it off," he replied.
"You said her head will roll off without it!"
Suddenly, Maria's doctor began acting strangely. He looked left and right, then muttered in low tones, "It won't roll. The x-ray we took this morning indicated her neck bones have regenerated."
"You said that was impossible."
"It is impossible."
I shook my head, confused. "Were the original x-rays a mistake?"
"Not at all. They're here for anyone to see."
Before answering, the doctor sighed. "So there are things I can't explain. Her bones have regenerated, and they are strong enough to hold her head. That's all I know."
"Doctor! Is this a miracle?"
"I don't know about miracles, that's Maria's department. She tells me Jesus healed her."
Adapted from Barbara Royce Extract, "Maria and the Halo," Christian Reader (Jul/Aug 2001), p. 63.
Back To Church
You Belong Here!
(Acts 2:42-47; Romans 12:10)
“In his latest book, John Ortberg writes about our need to meaningfully connect with others:
In 2015, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley announced they would be part of a $100 million dollar project for space travel to see if there's intelligent life in the universe. The plan was to send tiny nanocrafts—like spaceship butterflies—traveling at one-fifth the speed of light to Alpha Centauri. Stephen Hawking expressed the purpose poignantly: "It is important to know if we are alone in the dark."
The folks at Berkeley are not the only ones who want to know. We're all constantly sending out tiny little probes, emotional nanocrafts, to find out whether we're alone in the dark. They travel at high speeds, and it's easy to miss them. They can be small: "Did you see the game last night?" They can be poignant: "I don't think I'll ever call my dad again." They can be deep: "I'm not sure my wife loves me anymore." They can be urgent: "I have no one else to talk to; can I speak to you confidentially?"
These emotional nanocrafts are what researcher John Gottman calls "bids" for emotional connection." We start issuing these bids before we can talk. A baby's cry is a bid to connect. As we grow older, these bids—or invitations—for intimacy take other forms. "A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch—any single expression that says, 'I want to feel connected to you.'" Intimacy of every kind is either built up or eroded, based on how well we handle the subtle little nanocrafts of relational life.”
Adapted from John Ortberg, I’d like You More If You Were More Like Me (Tyndale Momentum, 2017), pages 67-68.
Most of you know that Judy started teaching 1st Grade again this year
With her teaching, we have seen less and less of each other
Keep in mind that before she was just across the parking lot and I would be able to see her whenever I wanted to, throughout the day, but mostly at lunch time and in the evening
The last time we served at the Upper Adams Food Pantry, August 27, 2018, Pastor Marc and I finished preparing the food that Judy and the youth had worked on the night before
We traveled together to the food pantry, because Judy and Levi came directly from school to the food pantry
I walked into the kitchen after Judy had arrived and reached out to hold her hand
I just wanted to connect with her
Someone asked me if something was wrong and I told them, “I haven’t seen Judy for a while and just wanted to connect with her.”
Family Life Weekend to Remember
Judy and I attend the Family Life Weekend to Remember event in Hershey, PA every February
It is our way of making sure our marriage is “tuned up”
The one thing I really appreciate about the teaching over that weekend is that every couple is moving in one of two ways – either towards isolation or oneness.
They give every couple the opportunity to move towards oneness in multiple ways (activities to do after each session and a date night on Saturday night)
Not really connecting
There is a misconception in our current technological age that we are connecting with more people, because of social media
Unfortunately, those connections are not always healthy and some of them are even “real”
We are looking for connection through “likes,” “follows,” “shares,” “comments,” “subscribers,” etc.
Wanting to connect
This shows us that people want to be connected
They want to be liked
They want to know that people value their ideas, thoughts, and opinions
They want to be loved and to be a part of a community
In Acts 2:42-47 the church is Jerusalem is formed right after Peter shares the Gospel on what we now call the Day of Pentecost. There were 3,000 people who became Christians that day. What was it going to take for the existing Christians and this newly formed church to be healthy? Luke outlines that for us. He wants us understand that...
BIG IDEA – Our actions toward one another shows our community that this is a place to belong.
A healthy church is one that is W.E.L.L. (Worshipping, Evangelistic, Loving, and Learning). [I have to let you know that Pastor Marc came up with this acronym. He is very gifted at doing that!].
We are going to look at all four of those attributes today, but we’ll be looking at them in the order they appear in the text.
GOD (Acts 2:42-47; Romans 12:10)
John Stott’s commentary, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Acts, beautifully outlines these six verses – I’ve used his headers for the four points this morning [Stott, 82-86]
PRINCIPLE – Healthy churches pay careful attention to teaching, fellowship, prayer, and witness. [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, Acts, 33]
Learning Church (Acts 2:42a, 43)
The first thing that these new believers did was devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching
The Greek word for “devoted” means “to be firm, persevere, remain faithful to a person or task. In regard to prayer, the idea is constant diligence, effort that never lets up, confident waiting for results.” [Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 233]
The construction of the participle is such that it stresses a continual, ongoing action
The NASB has this construction in its translation, They were continually devoting themselves to . . .
The devotion these new believers had was to all four things listed there (teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer)
The apostles were probably teaching the following things:
The person and work of Jesus Christ (Son of God, perfect/without sin, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension)
The way of salvation (by grace, through faith in Jesus)
How Jesus was concealed in the Old Testament, but had fulfilled what the prophets had said
The importance of a Christian witness
Matthew 28:19-20, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
These are the marching orders of every Christian given to the disciples when Jesus returned to heaven
Here at Idaville Church we summarize these two verses into a three-phrase tag line
Pursue Disciples, Grow Disciples, Multiply Disciples
The teaching of the apostles would have included obedience to everyone of Jesus’ commands
The apostles’ teaching was authenticated by the many wonders and miraculous signs they were able to do
This was God’s way of letting the listeners, who sat under the apostles’ teaching, know that they were genuinely commissioned by Him
The power to do many wonders and miraculous signs came from God
The same is true today of anyone who has the gift of healing – it only comes from God
This is certainly how the 1st Century Christians would have understood the teaching of the apostles, but what does it look like for us, today?
The teaching of the apostles is now confirmed for us through the canon of Holy Scripture – the Bible
The New Testament, specifically, has the teaching of the apostles for us
What was concealed in the Old Testament is now revealed in the New Testament – the early church was experiencing the New Testament firsthand
God continues to preserve His Word throughout history
Opportunities to devote ourselves to the teaching of God’s Word
Worship Service (children’s church during the message)
Sunday school (we have classes for all age groups)
Discipleship Groups (we have groups forming right now that you can join, just see our Welcome Center attendant this morning and ask about Discipleship/Small Groups)
Wednesday evening (children, youth, and adults)
Sunday evening (youth)
“Let me say here that openness to being fed by the Word is key evidence that one is truly regenerated. Many people come to Christ to have a felt need met because they hear that the God of the Christians is a prayer-answering God. In their eagerness to be blessed by this God, they go through the motions of ‘making a decision.’” [Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary, Acts, 132]
This has been my experience with new believers that I’ve had the privilege of discipling
They are hungry for God’s Word and are looking for more and more opportunities to study God’s Word
I’ve experienced that hunger in a new believer within the past week
Making disciples is so much more than just a one-time conversion experience – it is a continual, ongoing process of growing together
The new believers in Jerusalem weren’t just devoted to the apostles’ teaching, they were also devoted to loving one another
Loving Church (Acts 2:42b, 44-45; Romans 12:10)
They were devoted to fellowship
The Greek word is koinonia and means fellowship, sharing in common, communion, close relationship
This Greek word would also be used for the mutual give an take of a marriage relationship [Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, 150]
The love shared between a husband and wife is perhaps the closest relationship we can have here on earth
If the marriage is functioning as it should, moving toward oneness instead of isolation, then both people will be loving and looking out for each other
They will sacrifice whatever they need to for the relationship
This kind of mutual give and take should be evident within the Christian community also
The believers, here in Jerusalem, were fulfilling Jesus’ words to His disciples prior to His crucifixion
John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Romans 12:10, Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Stott expresses that it is both sharing in together and sharing out together [Stott, 82-83]
1 John 1:3, We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:14, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all
“In secular Greek the word was used for the sharing of possessions.” [Fernando, 120]
2 Corinthians 9:13, Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with (koinonia) them and with everyone else.
Interesting note – the Greek word koinōnikos means “generous”
We see in vv. 44-45 what being devoted to the fellowship looked like
Sharing of possessions
They were together
The idea expressed here is one of unity
Philippians 2:1-4, If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Acts 4:32, All believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had.
Everything in common
The Greek word for “common,” in v. 44, is another form of koinonia, it is koina
Jesus and His apostles shared a common purse (Judas was in charge of it)
This same concept was practiced by at least one Jewish party that was more rigorous in their belief system [Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, 74]
Luke explains in v. 45 what this looked like for the early church
Selling their possessions
Possessions is probably referring to their real estate or land holdings
The idea expressed through the imperfect tense of the verbs “selling” and “gave” is two-fold
First, it meant that this was continual, ongoing practice of selling possession and goods and not a one-time “initiation fee” into Christianity
It also meant it was voluntary and based on need (the apostles weren’t stock piling funds)
When Peter confronts Ananias and Sapphira about selling some property, but only giving a portion of it to the Lord, he says, Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God (Acts 5:4)
Selling their goods
Goods is probably referring to their valuables
This would include anything other than real estate or land
Giving to anyone as they had a need
When a need arose among any of the believers it was probably brought up to the whole community
Different individuals, led by God, would sell possessions or goods and bring the money to the apostles so they could distribute it to those in need
As a church, we do a great job of taking care of those within our church community
We also do a great job of taking care of those in our community
There have been some repeat individuals who have come by the church, looking for financial help, and my response to them is that the greatest help they will ever receive is to join with a body of believers
We see that Biblical precedence here
“This pooling of property could be maintained voluntarily only when their sense of spiritual unity was exceptionally active.” [Bruce, 74]
PRINCIPLE – God is pleased when His people help each other when they are in need.
As a body of believers, we can only help with needs that we are aware of
That means the need has to be expressed
We have a benevolence committee that includes me, Laurin Fleming as chairperson of the board, Bev Fleming as chairperson of the spiritual care commission, and Donna Kerrigan as treasurer
If you have a need, please let one of us know
My Next Step Today Is To: Let the benevolence committee know that I have a need. (we will contact you for more details about your need)
The other side of this principle is giving to help meet that need
We can sometimes get so caught up in our own world that we are blind to those around us
We can very easily overlook someone who is obviously in need
We can also think that we can’t afford to help someone in need
I want to challenge you today to consider how and what God may be calling you to sacrifice, so you can help meet the needs of others
It may be property or personal possessions that you can sell in order to help
My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to show me if there is anything He wants me to sacrifice so I can help those in need.
We have seen that a healthy church is a learning and loving church, but it is also a worshipping church
Worshipping Church (Acts 2:42c, 46-47a)
Their fellowship wasn’t limited to just caring for their fellow believers, but also in worshipping corporately
The third thing that the new believers were devoted to was to the breaking of bread
Most scholars agree that this is referring to the Lord’s Supper (communion) that took place during the larger agape feasts that were part of the early church
In the second half of v. 46 we see that they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts
They were doing this every day, going from house to house, sharing a meal together, and remembering the Lord’s suffering until He comes (communion)
They were enjoying each other’s company, which speaks volumes about the unity they were experiencing
This is not to say that this early church did not have its faults (disagreement between the Grecian and Hebraic Jews over the treatment of their widows, Rom. 6:1-6)
I’m not trying to gloss over the difficulties they had in an attempt to guilt us into acting a certain way
I just want to encourage us to think about whether or not we could improve in the area of having meals together (hospitality)
I remember the years when my Mother would make extra food for Sunday lunch with the expectation that we would invite a family over for a meal – it was intentional and purposeful
We could come prepared each Sunday to invite a new family out to lunch, so they know that they belong here
They weren’t just sharing meals and communion together, they were also praying together
The fourth thing the believers were devoted to was prayer
This wasn’t just private prayer, although I’m sure they were practicing that too
This was corporate prayer times they had every day
They were meeting in the temple courts, probably under Solomon’s Colonnade and praying for the Jews who didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah and for their fellow Gentiles who perhaps didn’t believe in God at all
They were probably spending time in prayer before and after the meals they shared together from house to house
This is an encouragement for us to spend time in prayer informally when we get together to share a meal
It is also an encouragement for us to spend time formally in corporate prayer
We see this in our Sunday school classes
We have a Wednesday evening worship, praise, and prayer time for adults
We have a prayer warrior ministry that has started again during the worship service
We have a group that meets at the prayer rail on Sunday mornings at 8:45 am to pray for the morning services
PRINCIPLE – God is honored when His people worship Him through agape meals, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.
When we honor through these acts of worship, then those in our community who do not have a relationship with Jesus will see a difference
We will enjoy the favor of all the people
This only comes through the power of God when we focus on Him and His people instead of ourselves – when we strive for unity and love within the body of Christ
There is one more aspect of a healthy church, one that is W.E.L.L. and that is evangelism
Evangelistic Church (Acts 2:47b)
John Stott explains that we can learn three vital lessons about local church evangelism from these early believers [Stott, 86-87]
First, the Lord (Jesus) is the one who added to their number
He obviously used the teaching of the apostles to share the truths of God with unbelievers
Sin problem (Rom. 3:23, 6:23)
God’s solution (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3b-4)
Our response (Rom. 10:9-10)
My Next Step Today Is To: Confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead to take my punishment for sin.
He also used the koinonia fellowship through the body of believers to encourage and strengthen those who were seeking the truth
1 Corinthians 3:6-7, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
Those early believers and unbelievers had found a place to belong
Second, what Jesus did was two things together: he added to their number . . . those who were being saved
There weren’t nominal Christians in the church who weren’t transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
There weren’t people who simply believed in God, but didn’t have a relationship with Jesus
He also didn’t save them to a solitary Christian life
They were added to the community of believers
Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Finally, the Lord added people daily
The verb “added” is in the imperfect tense meaning “kept adding” – a continual process
PRINCIPLE – God promises to add believers to His church when His people focus on worshipping, evangelizing, loving, and learning together.
A W.E.L.L. church is a healthy church
“What happens to believers who worship, work, and witness for their Lord? The Lord grows the church. Let’s not miss the order – first godly relationships with each other, then growth.” [Gangel, 32]
While the Lord did the adding, we have a responsibility to plant and water
Our actions toward one another shows our community that this is a place to belong
To be a healthy church we have to focus on being W.E.L.L. (worshipping, evangelizing, loving, and learning together)
We have to teach new believers to obey every command that Jesus gave His disciples
We have to love one another by sharing in and sharing out
We have to find joy in worshipping together as a unified body of believers
We have to be committed to Pursuing, Growing, and Multiplying Disciples
What part do you need to play in helping our church to be W.E.L.L.?
“When we have forgotten the past, the community helps us re-learn our own story. The case of ‘Benjamin Kyle’ is instructive. In the early morning of August 31, 2004, employees of a Burger King in Richmond Hill, GA found a man unconscious next to a dumpster. He was naked, sunburnt, and had bites from red ants. His skull had three depressions, apparently from blunt force trauma. He also had amnesia and was unable to remember his own name, much less how he came to be found beaten behind a Burger King. The employees called 911, and he was taken to a hospital in Savannah; but without identity papers or memory, they listed him only as ‘Burger King Doe.’
For more than ten years he was unable to remember his name and thus was unable to get a Social Security card. He could not obtain a job nor collect any kind of benefits from the government. He named himself ‘Benjamin Kyle,’ sensing that his first name might have been Benjamin, and he sought a community that knew him previously to help him piece together his identity. You see, without a community, this man had no access to his story. Finally, with the help of investigative reporters and genetic testing, ‘Benjamin Kyle’ learned his real name and likely family of origin. As he started to identify with his community again he said, ‘Looking at all these names, all these people, kind of gives me a sense of belonging,’ he said. ‘I have a history. I'm not just some stranger that materialized out of thin air.’
Jeffrey Arthurs, Boston, Massachusetts; source: Kent Justice, “Man with no name finally knows real identity,” News4Jax.com (9-15-16)