You Belong Here!
Our actions toward one another shows our community that this is a place to belong.
Acts(13) (Part of the National Back To Church Sunday(4) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on September 16, 2018 (Sunday Morning(281))
Community(6), Evangelism(3), Love(18), Unity(6), Worshipping(1)
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)