Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What We Can Learn From The First Church

Early Events: Cross, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost. And then "Birth of the Church"
Acts 2:41-47

The early church didn't do everything right. BUT, this is about as right as it gets.
The unity, fellowship, generosity, cooperation, concern for one another, sincerity, exuberance, harmony, joy, vision, etc.

PLUS, the Holy Spirit was working with signs, wonders, miracles, healings

The people were excited, being saved, growing, working, sharing, witnessing. There were no fusses over worship, dress code, finances, Bible translation, carpet color, sermon length, etc.

Question: Why so right?? Answer: It was a new work - no baggage yet. It was Apostle led. The Spirit was moving. The people were working.

Question: Can we duplicate this?
On one hand, we can't duplicate ... the newness, the Apostles, the Spirit's work - the Spirit works at His own choosing - can't be regulated by man.
However, we can imitate (replicate, mirror) the works of the people of the first church.

So... we can look at:
I. the devotion of the people
II. what they were devoted to
III. How that can benefit our church

I. The devotion of the people - Acts 2:42

"they devoted themselves" - meaning committed, dedicated, applied to, earnest, intense, attentive to...

B. They devoted themselves" - meaning self-motivated, in contrast to "preacher" motivated. This is something no one can do for you - have to do it yourself.

C. "they devoted themselves" - ie. as a group. Contrast "I'm devoted to...." with "we are devoted to..."

II. What they were devoted to
Note: devotion/sincerity is not enough. If it were enough, then the apostles and terrorists would be equal.
(NOTE: this is not a complete list - but is a primary list)

The people were devoted to....
#1. Learning the Word - "Apostles' doctrine"
You cannot do effective work without sufficient knowledge

#2. Loving one another. Acts 2:42 This means more than fellowship. It means the fellowship! A. the brotherhood and B. well being of the brotherhood

#3. Gathering Acts 2:46 "in the temple, in homes" There is something special about Christian gathering. Matt. 18:20
Therefore, Heb. 10:25

#4. Giving Acts 2:44-45 = sharing and meeting needs
On the one hand, communal behavior was not instructed and not a tradition.
But, it showed their concern!!

#5. Prayer - Acts 2:42 the text indicates corporate prayer. Note: the quickest way to kill a Bible Study is to turn it into a prayer meeting!! Yet, we know.... Matt. 18:20 James 5:16 (b)

#6. Worship Acts 2:46-47 (corp)
Contrast "attend worship", observe worship, be in worship services
True, we don't all worship alike - have different spiritual pathways
However, you know in your heart whether worship takes place...


#1. This is not a comprehensive list, but it does equal a primary list, fundamentals!!

#2. These activities are mostly "in-house", in reach.
Obviously, it doesn't negate the great commission (which they did and did well)
BUT... it shows we must minister to the church so we're able to minister beyond the church
( Eph. 4:11-15 )

#3. Devotion requires commitment
Sometimes #1 - #6 are easy! Often they are difficult!! Therefore, it requires commitment, self-motivation, self-discipline Jer. 12:5

#4. Duplication and imitation does not guarantee success.
(as we measure success)
We can't control, manipulate, force the Holy Spirit to work
But, we can create an atmosphere, environment for the Holy Spirit to work in - if He chooses to work.

#5. The church (group) cannot do any of this until the members (individuals) do.

A ___________ church is made of _____________ people. Fill in the blanks with the same word.

So, we can't be the First church, but we should devote ourselves to being the kind of church the First Church was.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Beliefs that Changed the World

Referencing article by Michael Spencer called "Coming Evangelical Collapse" originally written Jan. 27, 2009 and reprinted in Baptist Messenger April 8, 2010.

"Nothing will reanimate evangelicalism to its previous levels of size and influence. The end of evangelicalism as we know it is close; far closer than most of us will admit."

Question: is the article true? likely?
Answer: "what's ahead?" - don't know. On one hand, it's Christ's church and He'll care for it. Matt. 16:18
On the other hand, the spread of the gospel and the health of the church is largely in the hands of His followers. Matt. 28:19-20

So, again, what's ahead for the church, evangelical Christianity, in the USA? Again, the answer is: don't know.

BUT, we do know: there is a common belief system that undergirds every Christian awakening, corresponds to every revival, parallels every Christian resurgence.
You'll find it A. recorded in the history and theology of the New Testament, and
B. in the fabric of all successful Christian movements since then.

So, let's examine:
I. Common beliefs that led to the actions that changed the world.

II. The application of those beliefs to you and I today.

The beliefs that changed the world.
(or the beliefs behind the actions that changed the world)

#1. Jesus is Lord. Acts 2:36 3:13-15
Therefore, they preached more than morals, ethics, social issues. They preached Christ - death, burial, resurrection, ascension.
If don't have this, will have the death of evangelicalism of the church.

#2. All men should be informed of this truth. Matt. 28:19-20 - Great Commission - was taken seriously.

#3. All men need Jesus. They believed the sinfulness of man, sacrifice of Christ, need to accept and receive Him.
They believed man was free to choose BUT not free to access God your own way. Acts 4:12 reflects John 3:16-18 and John 14:6

#4. All believers have responsibility to spread the gospel. Acts 4:29 Acts 8:1 & 4 - all did not mean only preachers. All meant witnesses.

#5. Jesus is with us in this endeavor. ( Matt. 28:20 ) Mark 16:20

#6. There is great power at work in our efforts.
Phil. 2:12-13 - prayer, proclamation, ministry....
On one hand, rely on the presence and power of God.
On the other hand, work as if the results depended solely on you!!!

#7. Lifestyle is part of the proclamation process. "Christian walk"
pleases God, benefits believers, AND demonstrates Christ. People should look to you and find Christ.

#8. When we are spreading the gospel we are doing God's work. John 14:12

#9. We are making an eternal difference.

#10. We will be blessed for our efforts. According to His definition and according to His timing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Truth of the Resurrection - Jesus Is Lord

The simple, basic truth of the Resurrection is: Jesus Is Lord

The resurrection accomplished much..... but it said clearly that Jesus is Lord!

The early church had many theological issues to address!!! Questions to answer. BUT of this they were certain...... Jesus is Lord!

The earliest statement of faith by the Christian community was Jesus Is Lord!

Note: This conclusion was not based on the resurrection alone. (miracles, teaching, charisma, character)
BUT, the Resurrection galvanized their belief. Rom. 1:4

So, today - the central truth that binds Christian worldwide is that Jesus is Lord!!
On one hand, there are many differences - denominations, worship style, Bible interpretation and application, etc.
But, all agree....... Jesus is Lord! And this makes us all brothers and sister in Christ in the end!!

Each individual must decide for himself (if the statement is true...)
The evidence is: A objective/external, and
B. subjective/internal
Therefore, IF He is Lord... then there is a reasonable and appropriate response to be made regardless of denomination, worship style, etc.

10 Reasonable Responses to the Resurrection.

#1. Recognize Him.
(As Lord - who He is, what He's done) - Acts 2:36 (first Christian sermon by Peter)

#2. Claim Him. This is not the same as recognizing Him. ( compare - James 2:19 with John 20:27-28 )
Claim Him:
A. specifically
B. personally (my Lord and my God) and
C. exclusively - Acts. 4:12 (only one)

#3. Enthrone Him - internally and practically - make Him "boss". If this is not done practically, all religious activities mean nothing.

#4. Seek His will - this is more than accept it (passive). Seek it. (active)

#5. Obey His Word - which is His revealed will. Luke 6:46
His will is generally outlined in scripture and should be specifically applied to your situation by making application of what principles are found there.

#6. Follow Him. This more than obey!! It means to walk with, learn of, grow in, imitate Him.

#7. Serve Him. Not as a master/slave relationship - not involuntary, forced labor. It is a Master/servant relationship - serve Him out of choice.

#8. Worship Him. Matt. 28:8-9 - individually, privately as well as corporately, publicly

#9. Represent Him 2 Cor. 5:20 - as ambassadors of Christ - representing Him in the world.

#10. Promote Him - (share/declare) Matt. 28:18-19 "all authority' - so do something.

Someday ALL will recognize Him and declare Him as Lord. Meanwhile, it is your choice and your decision.