Summary: We win when we're all in.
A Community in Unity
Rev. Brian Bill
November 30-December 1, 2019
While there was much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, Monday was also a momentous day for me. I had the joy of spending all day with Beth and then for dinner we met a friend of mine from college named Tom. Tom was one of the guys who prayed for me to be saved when I was at Madison. It was a delight to hear how he is growing and how God is using him. Even though we don’t see each other very often, because we’re united in Christ, we’re united with each other.
Shortly after we arrived home, I received a phone call from another faithful friend named Mike who lives in central Illinois. He has been calling me every week for over 10 years and leaving a prayer on my voicemail. When he calls, I normally don’t answer and just let it go to voicemail. I then listen to this prayer before preaching each weekend. I’m glad I answered on Monday because he called to encourage me and then prayed for me “live” over the phone. Our common unity in Christ has made us quite close.
One of the things I most appreciate about Tom and Mike is that they are all in for Christ and His kingdom.
Last weekend we were challenged to be bold and not fold when hard times come by being proactive, prayerful and prepared. Today we’re finishing Acts 4 and will learn we win when we’re all in.
Let’s stand and read Acts 4:32-37. This brief paragraph is a snapshot summary of how the early church functioned: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
These first followers demonstrated three traits that have direct application to each of us – we’re called to exhibit oneness, extend ourselves, and encourage others.
Look at verse 32: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” The “full number” means a great multitude. The word “believed” reminds us that the oneness we have is because we have believed. To “believe” means to “be firmly persuaded, to rely on, and to trust in.” If you have not yet believed in Christ through the new birth, then you don’t yet belong to His church. If you are born again, you belong to the universal church, and we’d love for you to belong here.
Notice all those who were born again were bound to each other in “one heart and one soul.” The heart represents our desires and the soul is the immaterial part of our being. This has the idea of having harmony in thought and affection, head and heart. Since they shared a common love, they shared a common life. Because they believed in one Lord and had one Spirit indwelling each of them, they were one with each other.
The Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks was spot on when he wrote: “Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lamb is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, that is unnatural and monstrous.”
The early church exhibited oneness from the very beginning. Acts 1:14 says, “all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer…” Acts 2:1 tells us on the Day of Pentecost “they were all together in one place…” Acts 2:44 says: “And all who believed were together…” This is in the imperfect tense, meaning they made it a practice of gathering together all the time. This goes along with what we learned last week about the importance of being with “your people.”
It’s difficult for us to exhibit oneness when we think we’re better than others. Max Lucado tells of the time his wife bought a monkey and brought it home. He didn’t like the idea, so he strongly objected, “Where is he going to eat?” His wife replied, “At our table.” “Where’s he going to sleep?” “In our bed.” Lucado complained, “What about the odor?” To which his wife responded, “I got used to you; I guess the monkey can, too!” Unity doesn’t begin in examining others but in owning our own smelly sins.