Characteristics tell a lot about you individually or a group. Our characteristics can benefit us or bring peril to our very existence.
In Life on the Edge, Dr. James Dobson writes:
What are the characteristics of sheep that remind the Lord of you and me? What is he really saying when he refers to us in that way? Well, shepherds and ranchers tell us that these animals are virtually defenseless against predators, not very resourceful, inclined to follow one another into danger, and they are absolutely dependent on their human masters for safety. Thus, when David wrote, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep," he was referring to our tendency to move as an unthinking herd and away from the watchful care of the Shepherd.
Dobson states, I observed this herd instinct a few years ago in a documentary on television. It was filmed in a packinghouse where sheep were being slaughtered for the meat market. Huddled in pens outside were hundreds of nervous animals. They seemed to sense danger in their unfamiliar surroundings. Then a gate was opened that led up a ramp and though a door to the right. In order to get the sheep to walk up that ramp, the handlers used what is known as a "Judas goat." This is a goat that has been trained to lead the sheep into the slaughterhouse.
The goat did his job very efficiently. He confidently walked to the bottom of the ramp and looked back. Then he took a few more steps and stopped again. The sheep looked at each other skittishly and then began moving toward the ramp. Eventually, they followed the confident goat to the top, where he went through a little gate to the left, but they were forced to turn to the right and went to their deaths. It was a dramatic illustration of unthinking, herd behavior and the deadly consequences it often brings.
Today we can exist with the herd mentality and move without thinking and purpose or we can look to God’s word for the characteristics that are to portray His body and what make us unique as a people of God called the “Church”
This morning we are going to look at these characteristics and what the church of God should look like as we follow NT principles:
42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Devoted = προσκαρτερέω proskarteréō (compound Greek verb) - from prós, to, and karteréō, to endure.
To tarry, remain somewhere (Mark 3:9); to continue steadfastly with someone Acts 8:13; to cleave faithfully to someone Acts 10:7; referring to those who continually insist on something or stay close to someone Acts 2:42
4 Things: - the early church insisted on or stayed close to (devoted to)
#1. -Apostles’ Teaching
Teaching or Doctrine is the backbone of the church. All that we know, believe and practice is mitigated on Doctrine.
There was a deep expectation on Jesus’ part that the church would accept, follow and be taught by the Apostles as they learned from Him.
NT writers are of the same opinion,
2 Timothy 2:2
1 Timothy 4:6
1 Timothy 4:11
1 Timothy 4:13
1 Timothy 4:16
Scripture is food for the believer’s growth and power –and there is no other. The church today ignores the exposition and application of Scripture at its peril, as a warning of Hosea to Israel suggests: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The church cannot operate on truth it is not taught; believers cannot function on principles they have not learned.
-κοινωνία koinōnía – fellowship, participation, share or partnership
1 John 1:3
A good way for the church to express this fellowship is through the “one anothers” of scripture:
There is never an instance of Lone Ranger Christianity within the pages of scripture. We are supposed to be involved intimately and actively in each other’s lives within local assemblies. Don’t forsake your responsibility of gathering together to encourage one another.
#3. -Breaking Bread
When we take communion together as a body it does two things:
#1. Acknowledges the work of the cross
#2. Exemplifies the unity of the body of Christ
1 Corinthians 10:16–18
NT commands toward prayer:
To pray at all times
To be devoted to prayer
MacArthur states again:
“Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence.”
II. Practice of Devotion
43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
44And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
A. Sense of Awe
Awe = φόβος phóbos - Fear, terror, reverence, respect, honor (holy terror). Attitude of reverence because of the divine presence of God among the believers. It’s an acknowledgement that God is present and the things of God should be highly respected.
It’s sad to say that some inside and outside the church today do not have such a view of the body of Christ. When items are stolen from the church; there is no sense of honor, respect or phobos of God. When NT teaching and commands of God’s word are not followed or obeyed; there is no sense of honor, respect or phobos of God.
This sense of respect and honor (holy terror) happens in how we treat one another.
B. Things Held in Common
This is not a communal living situation nor is it communism. Remember the context here is the feast of Pentecost and travelers from all over the diaspora were in Jerusalem increasing pressure on the inns, and provisions within the city to deal with such an influx of people. Therefore the natural expression of the body of Christ was to arise to the occasion and begin sharing as anyone who came to Christ might have need.
C. Sharing to meet Needs
Here is a principle at work. A need has to be acknowledged by the one in need (laying aside self pride). And secondly, a person, or group of people must be willingly to meet that need (laying aside selfishness).
III. Application – Practice of Unity
46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
One Mindedness Results:
•Gladness & Sincerity
What characteristics are you conveying to the world and others within the body of Christ?
Who are you following? Is it a Judas goat or the True Shepherd?