Summary: Some lessons from the early Church. In particular, encouraging the local church to be imitators of Barnabas the encourager, since he himself was Christ-like
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (John 20:20)! On that Sunday evening, just two days after they had seen Jesus crucified dead and buried, Jesus appeared to his closest friends. Two days after the worst day they had ever experienced, his friends saw him alive and they were overjoyed.
(John 20:21) Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Absolutely convinced that God had resurrected Jesus, many of those disciples were later killed; several of them were crucified, for continuing to insist that Jesus did not stay dead; that Jesus was alive, and now at work in the world through his spirit.
It’s been said, and I agree, that ‘God does not have a mission for his church, but rather God has a church for his mission. God does not have a mission for his church, but rather God has a church for his mission.’
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” It’s his mission. He does it (sometimes with us)!
So we come to the events of the early church, filled with the Holy Spirit; in other words filled with the spirit of Jesus, filled with the very character, attitudes, desires, and motivations of Jesus. You know, there are so many people in this world that would say they are not religious, but would agree that Jesus was the most amazing, caring, sympathetic, unselfish person the world has known. Most people agree that Jesus was and is the model human being. Perhaps that describes you this morning, but you’re not sure about this ‘resurrection from the dead’ thing that Christians have always insisted upon. Perhaps you wish you could be more loving, more joyful, and more peaceful; perhaps you wish you could be more patient, more kind and more self-controlled: The Good News is that the Holy Spirit of Jesus is available to each one of us, to help us become more like him. The Holy Spirit is available to each person that asks to be filled. The Holy Spirit helps us as individuals and as a church to be people and churches that reflect Jesus.
Do you want to reflect Jesus in your life? Do you want to reflect Jesus in this church? My prayer is that we will say, “Yes!”
The events of Acts 4: 32 to 37 come immediately after Peter and John have been arrested, questioned, ordered not to speak or teach about Jesus and then released (Acts 4: 17-21). The church have then prayed that despite ongoing threats of violence, they will have boldness to proclaim the Good News of Jesus (Acts 4: 29), and as they pray they are filled with the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit enables them to speak boldly about Jesus (Acts 4: 31).
Are you in a situation at the moment where you feel timid about the Good News of Jesus? Do you need to be bold in your conversation? Isn’t it great that it’s God’s mission, not mine. It’s God’s mission and not ours! That means he will do it through us by the power and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in you and me. He gives us the words to say, and he gives us actions to perform to be Good News.
History tells us that the early church could not help themselves but tell of the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t know how many of you have seen the film ‘Liar, Liar’ starring Jim Carrey? The Film was made about 6 years ago and Jim Carrey plays a lawyer who tells lots of lies. He gets lots of results in court, but he has become an unreliable husband and an erratic, inconsistent father. However, in true fairytale (Hollywood) style, Jim Carrey is suddenly unable to lie. He speaks the truth about everything and in many ways it gets him in to trouble, but it does result in his family relationships being restored. The early Christians had to tell the truth about Jesus. He was alive and they could not lie; and although it got them into loads of trouble with the religious authorities, family relationships were restored and the church grew. The church was (and today should be) a radical Christ-centred community; and I cannot think of anything more wonderful, anything more attractive than to be a Christ-centred community.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
This is not communism! This not sharing because we’ve been told to. This is not redistributing wealth as a result of a law, some act of parliament. This is a response from the heart, as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The attitudes of Jesus fill our thinking and our motivations become his: it is a Jesus-response, and it is the response of God’s people.