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Hospitality

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Last year I preached two sermons that I believe are foundational for who God wants us to be as a church. The first sermon was titled, “Being Real.” I talked about Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, a parable that Luke told us was directed to those “who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else” (, NIV). Jesus challenges us to be publicly honest about our shortcomings and failures - to be real with one another.
Then I preached a message titled, “Being Relevant.” I said that there is nothing more relevant than the gospel. But we sometimes shrink the gospel to make it about not going to hell, when it is really about transforming our lives to come under the kingship of God. When we do this, we will start hallowing God’s name, we will see God’s will done on earth as in heaven, we will see our physical needs met, forgiveness and healing from past sins will come, and we will overcome temptation to destructive lifestyles.
Today I want to preach a third message, and those of you familiar with the motto of the church can guess it’s title: “Being Relational.” These three ideas go hand in hand. If we are not real about our shortcomings, the gospel will never be relevant to our lives, and we will never go deep in relationships. If we are not relevant, then we are not being real about our need for a Savior, and our relationships will be shallow. If we are not relational, then we are not being real about why we were put on this earth and we cannot be relevant to those around us. If we fail in either of these areas, we fail as a church. But if we succeed in these areas, our church is going to thrive like it has never thrived before! Because this world is starving for a place to be real, for a message that is relevant, and for a people who are relational!
Acts 2:42–47 NIV
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), .
Does anyone know the context in Acts for this passage? Pentecost!
There have been several movements in recent decades to establish what are called “Acts 29 churches.” But Pentecostal churches like our own strive to be churches. We have sensed that today’s Christians often miss a major component of what Christianity is. And so we emphasize being Pentecostal. But Pentecost didn’t end with . Verses 42-47 are part of the Pentecost experience.
In some ways could be summarized with the words Real, Relevant, and Relational. Look at verses 22-23:
Acts 2:22–23 NIV
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
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Now that’s real! Or verse 36:
Acts 2:36 NIV
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Or verse 40:
Acts 2:40 NIV
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Peter is not afraid to get real with his audience. “God did miracles for you through Jesus, and you killed him!” “This generation we are living in is corrupt.” We need people in our lives who can call out our hypocrisy and our need for transformation!
Peter’s message is also relevant. Where does that transformation come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit! Jesus said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” What kind of power is this? Let me highlight a few things we see in the Gospels:
The Spirit gives us power over evil. The first thing Jesus does after being anointed with the Spirit at baptism is have a face-off with the devil. That passage begins and ends by emphasizing that Jesus was acting in the power of the Spirit. That same power is available to you. Any power the devil has over your life can be broken by the Holy Spirit. That is relevant!
The Spirit gives us power to help the poor and needy. When Jesus preaches his first sermon, he says the Spirit is upon him because God has anointed him to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Jesus casts out demons and heals sicknesses because the Holy Spirit is upon him. We can help others break free from addictions and sin and sickness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
The Spirit gives us knowledge and insight. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will teach us what we should say. says Jesus gave instructions to the apostles through the Holy Spirit. says it is when the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles that they will be witnesses to the ends of the earth. says it was through the Holy Spirit that David spoke the words of truth that he spoke in the Psalms. says that the Holy Spirit even enabled the apostles to speak the languages of all the peoples who had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost. says the Spirit will enable us to prophesy, to see visions and to dream dreams.
to set the oppressed free,
Let’s think about how relevant this is. Last time I preached, I told about a time I spoke words to one of my children that could be crippling, that could cause him to identify himself as someone who is unlovable. That was a moment I needed the power of the Holy Spirit to give me victory over the devil. Do you think being a better parent is relevant? The Holy Spirit can do that.
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
Or think about how many terrorists have been birthed from abuse by others. If the Spirit helps us to proclaim freedom for the oppressed, do you think that is going to be relevant for our world?
Or how many times have we gone down the wrong path in life because we acted out of faulty intuition rather than out of knowledge and insight?
The biggest problem in the world today is that the world is broken, and we are broken because of sin and evil. The Holy Spirit is the solution to that problem. How does Peter end that sermon?
Acts 2:38–39 NIV
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
So already in we have seen that the early church was real, and it was relevant. What was the result of this?
So ar
Acts 2:41 NIV
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Churches grow when they are real, relevant, and relational! Then look at what happens:
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), .
Acts 2:42 NIV
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The first thing that happens is devotion. When you realize that you are surrounded by the most real people you have ever met, and dealing with the most relevant message in the world, you become devoted to it.
One of the areas the church of today struggles is consistency. They say that the average church attender is in church 1.7x per month. It is hard to get momentum with that kind of consistency. We have a number of ideas about how to reach out to the community around us but not enough money or manpower to implement them. One Sunday we can be pushing 100 members in the service and then the next be down under 60. These are symptoms of a greater problem in the church. It’s not about numbers; it’s about being real, relevant, and relational. But we as a staff realize that if our numbers are down, we must be missing something that the church had. Because when the Spirit is working powerfully and the people are being real, people flock to the church! People are devoted to the church!
Verse 42 lists four things the people devoted themselves to, and these are described in further depth in verses 43 to 46. The first is the apostles’ teaching, and this is connected to what we read in verse 43:
It says they devoted themselves to four things: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. I have been happy to see our Wednesday night Bible studies grow over the years. When Emily and I started attending, there were only four other people in the group, including the pastors at the time, Al and Margie Yanno. Now we have had weeks where we have seen 20 adults in the Bible study. We have spun off a Sunday school class for those who want to hear a “first word.” But this is only the beginning. We need to recognize how real and relevant the apostles’ teaching is. If we are not hungering for God’s word and longing to be here, then something’s wrong.
They also devoted themselves to fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. But before we go there, I want to look at verse 43, which I think is connected to the apostles’ teaching.
Acts 2:43 NIV
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
It’s easy to devote youselves to the apostles’ teaching when they are performing signs and wonders! What Luke is describing here is the church at its best. In times of revival, miracles happen. When I was 22 years old I experienced a miraculous healing in the church. I had had surgery three times to deal with a physical problem, and the problem had just returned. I went to a healing service where no one knew about my physical problem but me and God. I didn’t really know anyone in that church. And then someone got up and said, “As I was praying, God told me there is someone here with this particular physical problem, and he wants to heal that today.” I went and received prayer and have been free of the problem ever since.
Do you think that affected my devotion to the apostles’ teaching? Do you think that was real and relevant? We need to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit so that signs and wonders will happen in our midst.
And we need to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. I have been happy to see our Wednesday night Bible studies grow over the years. When Emily and I started attending, there were only four other people in the group, including the pastors at the time, Al and Margie Yanno. Now we have had weeks where we have seen 20 adults in the Bible study. We have spun off a Sunday school class for those who want to hear a “first word.” But this is only the beginning. We need to recognize how real and relevant the apostles’ teaching is. If we are not hungering for God’s word and longing to be here, then something’s wrong.
It says they devoted themselves to four things: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. I have been happy to see our Wednesday night Bible studies grow over the years. When Emily and I started attending, there were only four other people in the group, including the pastors at the time, Al and Margie Yanno. Now we have had weeks where we have seen 20 adults in the Bible study. We have spun off a Sunday school class for those who want to hear a “first word.” But this is only the beginning. We need to recognize how real and relevant the apostles’ teaching is. If we are not hungering for God’s word and longing to be here, then something’s wrong.
I hope you can see that there is power in the Bible. When we gather to read God’s word, it’s not just so we can learn a little. It’s so we can have an encounter with a word that is living and active and can transform us! That is what we devote ourselves to.
Second, they devoted themselves to the fellowship. What does this mean? It is spelled out in more detail in verses 44-45:
Acts 2:44–45 NIV
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
Whoa! That’s fellowship! Let’s unpack that bit by bit:
All the believers were together. This is something we have to work extra hard on. We don’t live next door to each other. We don’t help each other harvest crops. We don’t go to the temple three times a day for prayer. What came naturally to the first church is a foreign concept to us. That means we need to work extra hard at it! Thursday we took our family to the Summit County Fair. For some reason it never occurred to us to call another family to see if they’d like to join us. Yesterday my wife went to the farmer’s market, and again, we invited no one from the church. Events that used to be done with the community are now done solo. If we want to call ourselves “real, relevant, and relational,” we’re going to need to learn some lessons from the church. The first lesson is to look for opportunities to be together.
They had everything in common. Someohow I think my wife and I did this better when we were younger. I remember one summer when a young man in our church needed a car just for the summer, and we thought, “We really only need one,” so we gave him one of our cars for the summer. Another time we had a friend give us a rice cooker because we needed it more than they did. We shared everything. The church did this all the more! They did not consider any possessions to be their own, but they belonged to the community. I read a story once of a church group that decided to all move into the same house together. Some of them made more money than others and so paid a bigger portion of the expenses, and everyone was OK with this. It was just part of the experience of being devoted to the fellowship. I don’t know what this would look like for us, but I imagine we can do better than we are doing now. Let’s be together and have everything in common.
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. One of the problems that the Old Testament prophets repeatedly called out was poverty. Moses implemented the year of Jubilee so that family wealth would not be accumulated and passed on from generation to generation, because when one family gets too wealthy, others suffer. Isaiah said:
Isaiah 5:8 NIV
Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.
Micah laments how people plot how they can gain other people’s property. Amos calls the rich “fat cows” who “crush the needy.” Israel’s tithes were collected to be given to the poor.
When Jesus came he announced that he was proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, in other words, a jubilee year when good news would be preached to the poor. Jesus said when he returns to earth he will separate the sheep from the goats on the basis of whether we cared for those in need. James says the rich will pass away like a wild flower.
These are all verses that the modern church tends to ignore.
So what does this mean for us? Let’s spend more time together. Let’s share things in common, and let’s make sure that no one is needy. As Jesus said, the wicked see the hungry and give nothing to eat, the thirsty and give nothing to drink, strangers and do not welcome them. We are to be different from that.
Finally, the church devoted itself to the breaking of bread and prayer. Prayer would happen three times a day at the temple. This is why verse 46 says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” They were faithful to the hour of prayer. It is somewhat disturbing how this tradition has changed over the years. To this day, Orthodox Jews gather three times a day for prayer. Muslims added to more prayer times after the setting of the sun. But most Christian groups have oddly given up our heritage of gathering for prayer.
Verse 46 also says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” The final element is the breaking of bread together. I remember when Pastor Joel first arrived at the church he initiated a Friday Night Light ministry that involved spending Friday nights sharing a meal with people in the church. Emily and I had some of you over for a meal, but we never got everyone over. We just lost the motivation. But if we are not sharing meals together, I don’t know how we could call ourselves relational.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), .
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), .
But look at the result of this fourfold devotion in : “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Salvation happens! Chruch growth! If we are real, relevant, and relational, people will be attracted to that!
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), .
Romans 12:9-13
Romans 12:9–13 NIV
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Job 31:32 NIV
but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler—
1 Peter 4:8–9 NIV
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Hebrews 13:1–2 NIV
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Genesis 4:9 NIV
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
NIV
Leviticus 19:33–34 ESV
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Reminds me of the Bob Evans quote
Acts 2:44–45 ESV
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Reminds me of the Bob Evans quote.
Luke 14:12–14 ESV
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Luke 10:25–37 ESV
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Matthew 25:34–36 ESV
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Genesis 18:2–5 ESV
He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”
Isaiah 58:6–7 ESV
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
,
Luke 11:5–8 ESV
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
Luke 10:38–42 ESV
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
“Grace is the hospitality of God to welcome sinners.” - John Piper
Bob Evans motto: “We treat strangers like friends and friends like family.”
The reason that the law is summed up in two commands - to love God and to love neighbor - is because God is love! Every time we express love, we experience God!
Hospitality in the Old Testament
The reason that the law is summed up in two commands - to love God and to love neighbor - is because God is love! Every time we express love, we experience God!
Abraham hosts Yahweh and two angels
Lot hosts two angels
Rebekah’s brother Laban invited Abraham’s servant in ()
Jethro invites Moses in ()
Manoah entertains the angel of the Lord ()
The man of Gibeah who entertains the man and his concubine ()
The woman at Shunem who entertains Elisha ()
Nehemiah feeds over 150 people ()
Much of the Gospel of Luke takes place around the dinner table.
Much of the Gospel of Luke takes place around the dinner table.
We live in a culture that preaches tolerance. We have become so accustomed to strife that our greatest hope is that we could just tolerate one another. Let’s explode that paradigm and go beyond tolerance to love! I have nothing wrong with the COEXIST bumper stickers except that they don’t go far enough. I don’t want us to simply coexist; I want us to bless those who are different from us. ()
Early Christianity spread among people who were hospitable because Jesus sent his disciples from town to town and encouraged them to stay with whoever welcomed them in and to remain with them until they were ready to leave that town. Lydia invites Paul and his companions into her house (Acts 16:15). The Philippian jailer invites them into his house ().
Hospitality is a characteristic of Christian leaders (; Timohthy 3:2)
Philip invites Paul and his companions to stay with him in Caesarea (Acts 21:8)
We are to be generous to the poor (; )
Welcome strangers
Invite people into your home
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