Acts Series: Back to the Beginning:
When Church was Church
Keys to Growth and Fellowship
Devotion that Develops Disciples into a Church
When I was a kid, I ate Wheaties Cereal. Why? Because the best athletes in the world were on the box of Wheaties.
The type of shoes I wore, the exercised I did, the things I ate or didn't eat, were based on looking at what the successful athletes did and I wanted to be like them.
I've had music heroes that affected the way I sing or play or write.
I've had preaching heroes that affect the way I communicate, preach eve think.
So, if we are going "back to the beginning", when church was church, if we are going to be as close to the Biblical Church as possible and still be relevant, then we need the disciplines of the early church.
What did they devote themselves to, in order to give them the necessary keys to growth and fellowship?
Let's see devotion that develops disciples into the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3000 conversions in that one day WOW
you might think how could they baptize? Well actually there were many baptismal pools on the Temple Grounds for ceremonial cleansing. Even if just the 12 Apostles baptized and it took 10 seconds for each, they could 6 a minute each or as a group 72 a minute. At that fast rate, they could baptize 3000 in about 45 minutes.
Josephus, the historian says that there were only 6000 Pharisees in all of Palestine in this time, so 3000 converts to Christianity in one day was quite a jumpstart!
What were the disciplines that enabled them to grow and develop fellowship?
I'd like to hit each of these, but I'd like to take them backwards
There's a word I'd like to use to guide our outline too. It's the Word "Communion"
Def - 1) the act or instance of sharing 3) intimate fellowship or rapport
There are 4 instances here of "Intimate Fellowship" that were a firm foundation for the growth and deepening fellowship of this burgeoning church
They Devoted Themselves to
The NASB says they "continually devoted" themselves. It's the same word that is translated continually AND devoted.
DEFINITION 1) to adhere to, devoted, constant, 2) constant, steadfastly attentive, 3) continue all the time … "to occupy oneself diligently with something"
This was their choice, their passion, their commitment for a recognized need …
1. Communion With God - Prayer
1 John 1:3 - … our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son, Jesus Christ
Psalm 42:1 - as the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God
Psalm 63:5,6 my soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you 6 on my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night
Heb 4:16 let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace
Purposes in Prayer
1. we don't know what to do
2. we don't know God well enough
3. "I Love You, Lord" - Loving on God is a purpose of prayer
4. "Pray without ceasing" -
when we pray,
WE are moved
When we pray together,
We are "glued together"
Prayer is Praise at it's heart because we are saying we "recognize our need for God"
"recognize God's Ability"
And When we Praise, God Inhabits the Praise of His People
So, when we pray …
Heaven Moves In
2. Communion With The Cross - Breaking Bread
1. Remembering the Christ and the Cross
Jesus said - "as often as you eat this bread/drink this cup, do it to remember me
If we take the Cross of Christ out of our Christianity there is nothing left
2. Recognizing The Sacrifice
1 Cor 2:2 I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified
Gal 6:14 may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …
3. Talk About it with Glad and Sincere hearts
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ, yet I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me
4. When we celebrate the cross together in conversation, we are in a spiritual sense, "breaking bread" together
3. Communion With The Body of Believers - Fellowship
Fellowship - koinonia
Fellowship, association, community, joint participation; the share or stock one has in anything, the right hand as a sign and a pledge
A gift jointly contributed
Fellowship means that I am in a community relationship with you.
We are together in this struggle
I have taken an oath or pledge to be there for you as you are for me
Fellowship means I put my money where my mouth is when needed and assist those in need within my community
1. Together - Unity
3 Greek Words (epi / ho / autos ) which mean - "upon this the same"
Psalm 133 - break it down
- unity of salvation/baptism into Christ
- unity of purpose
2. Everything in Common
literally meant - it belongs to everyone
i.e. what's mine is yours
3. Cared for Each Other - sold possessions and gave to the poor
They didn't hold too tightly to the things of the world
Would you sell your car if God told you to, in order to meet the need of the body?
Would you give up something precious to you?
It seems to me that the ONLY thing precious to them was the Fellowship and Welfare of the body
- shared - means to cut into pieces and distribute
4. Being together encouraged evangelism
continuing with one mind in the Temple
The Temple was MORE than just a place to gather.
It was a place where together in Unity they Proclaimed the Truth to the Spiritually Hungry yet Starving
4. Communion With The Word - Apostles Teaching
Apostle - Obviously means the 12 Apostles of Jesus and Matthias who replaced Judas but the greek word is also translated "messenger, envoy, one sent" in John 13:16; 2 Cor 8:23; Phil. 2:25
While the obvious understanding is that they gave attention to the divine inspiration that was coming through the Apostles to them, it should also be understood that as God's Divinely APPOINTED Messengers, the Teachings given through the Apostles and Today through the Divinely Ordained leadership of the Church.
Having grown up as a Pastor's son and having seen my Father in many churches as well as my own experience in years of ministry, it is amazing to me that a church will "seek God" through prayer and petition for the Shepherd that is to lead them. Then they vote and believe that they have heard from God as to whom God is placing in leadership over them, and then they don't want him to lead. They want him to preach, teach, but they don't want to be devoted to the teaching.
I'm NOT saying that I am divinely inspired in everything I say or do. However, If God has led me here and he has led you hear and we are to ALL operate together in this body in our gifts and calling, then if we WANT this church to grow and fellowship to flourish you SHOULD devote yourself to the Teaching of the Messenger that God has placed in this body.
Some people are more devoted to a Sunday School Teacher than to a Pastor.
Some people are more devoted to a Radio or Television teacher than a Pastor.
Can I be as bold, and still humble as to say that if you are in the place God has called you and the Pastor/Messenger is in the place he has been called, you would gain more in the body from devotion to the man in that body even if "less educated" but he's "been with Jesus" than being devoted to someone on Television with 14 degrees, that is NOT called to be YOUR messenger/Pastor?
Teaching - didache (did-akh-ay) - Doctrinal Teaching
1. "If I be lifted up" - when the Word God is proclaimed, when Jesus is Exalted, People are drawn to God.
2. Filled with Awe, wonders, glad and sincere hearts
3. committed to the Word
4. committed to the Teaching of the Shepherds placed over them.
5. Don't take for granted the Word that the Lord gives you through me as your Pastor. I would not EVER compare MY teaching to that of the Apostles of COURSE. Their teaching was God Breathed. However, God has placed me here to Shepherd, Teach, Encourage, and Equip. Don't take lightly the teaching the Lord is giving you through what he is giving me each week.
Take it in, don't just listen to it, but devour it.
Break it down
Apply it to your life on Monday-Saturday not just on Sunday
If you only listen to teaching / preaching on Sunday and don't devote yourself to the teaching the Lord has provided you, you are missing an opportunity for the Lord to grow you
You are missing an opportunity for us to grow together as a body
4 Critical Devotions
But did you notice WHERE they were carrying out their devotion?
In Homes, At the Temple, Most likely also in the Market Place. Everywhere.
They were not living Segmented lives nor segregated lives.
Christianity was meant to be a life where we are IN the world yet not of the world
-5 Favor of All People - The Problem that most of the World has with the Church is NOT that we have different beliefs, but that we don't LIVE what we say we believe.
-6 Lord added daily those being saved
When the Church is the Church
And Jesus Christ is lifted up
The Word of God is preached
Lives are Changed
Needs are Met
People Come to Christ