Summary: Seventh in a series on the early church. This message focuses on how believers are to care for the needs of others.
Let’s see how well we can remember our theme for this series of messages. Since this is now week number seven, we ought to all have it down pretty well by now:
“It is a sin to be good if God has called us to be great.”
As we’ve gone on this journey from good to great, we’ve learned that if we want to be a great church:
• Sometimes God calls on us to wait for Him to pour in His power, but while we wait, we still study His Word, pray and do the things He has already revealed to us.
• We need to make sure that our lives are prepared so that God can fill us with His Holy Spirit. We do that by spending time in His Word, praying, obeying what He reveals and confessing sin.
• Everything we do should bring our focus back to the resurrection, since that is the defining event for us as followers of Jesus Christ
• We need to live a life of repentance. We need to replace our heart with God’s heart.
• We need to be a church that balances the purposes of maturing, melding, ministering, magnifying and multiplying
Our last two messages in this series are going to focus on two of those purposes – ministering, and multiplying – the two purposes that focus primarily on those that are outside the body.
Read Acts 3:1-10
As I read through this account several times this week, I couldn’t help but think back to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It seems to me that Peter and John, as well as the other disciples, had not only taken the lessons that Jesus had taught to heart; they also lived them out in their lives. They truly were “Good Samaritans” to the people around them. And if we want to be a great church, we need to develop that same kind of attitude and put it into action as we care for the needs in our community.
HOW TO CARE FOR OUR COMMUNITY:
1. Walk in the world
We’ve seen the last few weeks that when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and became witnesses of Jesus Christ, the church grew rapidly. Nearly 3,000 people gave their lives to Jesus Christ in one day and others continued to be added to the body day after day. So nobody could have blamed the church leaders if they had just decided to focus on taking care of this large group of believers. They could have just hung around the Temple courts and the houses where they met and ignored the world around them.
But instead, we find evidence in this passage, that they didn’t just limit themselves to contacts with other believers. We don’t know exactly where Peter and John had been, but we know that it was somewhere else other than the Temple, because just before three in the afternoon they were on their way to the Temple to pray.
Although the Bible doesn’t tell us much about what Peter, John and the other disciples did every day, I think it’s safe to say that they weren’t full-time paid staff members of the local church there in Jerusalem. It seems likely that many of those early Christians probably maintained their regular jobs. What is obvious is that the early church did not isolate themselves from the world around them. It seems that they had remembered the words of Jesus as He prayed for them shortly before he went to the cross:
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
John 17:18 (NIV)
When Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth, he also made it very clear that those who followed Jesus Christ were not to isolate themselves from the world around them:
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
1 Corinthians 5:9, 10 (NIV)
For some of us, our lives naturally put us in places where we have contact with a lot of unbelievers. For many of us, it’s probably our work. But for others, we sometimes have to make a concerted effort to make sure we don’t just retreat inside a cocoon of other Christians. As I’ve shared with you before, one of the reasons that I officiate is that it gives me an opportunity to interact with unbelievers.
Obviously, we have to use some caution in this area. We need to be able to be in the world, but not of the world. We have to make sure that we rub off on the world around us and not the other way around. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what Jesus has called us to do.