Summary: A series of messages on the biblical characteristics that allows God us use and bless a church.
“The Church that God uses...Sticks Together”
“Three ingredients surface in the book of Acts to show us God’s method of church growth: The inspiration of His Presence, the demonstration of His Power, and the proclamation of a
Person (Jesus).” J. M. MacKnight
In this auditorium this morning, there are thousands of years of collective "experience" in the church. I’m certain that many of you, like myself, can say that we’ve seen the church at its BEST and at its WORST. I wrote down a few thoughts of when the church is at its best and worst...not all are original. I think you’ll relate to some of these:
The church at its best...is WARM and INVITING.
The church at its worst...is COLD and UNWELCOMING.
The church at its best...is marked by COMPASSION
The church at its worst...is marred by CRITICISM
The church at its best...is committed to the GOSPEL
The church at its worst...is committed to TRADITIONS
The church at its best...walks by FAITH
The church at its worst...walks by SIGHT
The church at its best...is focused UPWARD and OUTWARD
The church at its worst...is focused INWARD
The church at its best...is a SPIRITUAL HOSPITAL
The church at its worst...is a SPIRITUAL MUSEUM
The church at its best...is believing its BEST DAYS are AHEAD
The church at its worst...dwells on the GLORY of DAYS GONE BY
When the church is at its best...everyone knows how much WE CARE.
When the church is at its worst...NO ONE cares how much WE KNOW!
***For the church, the challenge has always been “how to be IN the world but not OF the world.”
How do we act behave like “salt and light” without becoming contaminated ourselves?
For some groups the answer has been to make HARD rules and RIGID distinctions that would shield them and their children from becoming worldly...as if creating a “fortress” would keep the world OUT and Christians from wandering.
KEY THOUGHT!: WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH in Acts 2, you don’t see a group of believers who WITHDREW from their culture to avoid exposure to sin...rather, you see a group of believers who FORTIFIED themselves in their times together so they could ENGAGE their culture and proclaim Jesus.
***This morning, the outline contains 4 CHARACTERISTICS of the very first church and the result of the church living that way.
1.) They never got tired of THE BASICS (vs. 42)
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
When you look at the “basics” listed in that verse, probably the only thing that jumps out as being “unique” to their experience would be “the apostles’ teaching”...because they had Peter and James and John, and the apostles with them.
• These men who had walked with Jesus
• Who had been with Him as He taught
• Who witnessed His miracles and healings
• Who had been promised the Holy Spirit and His guidance in their understanding of Jesus and His ministry (John 14:25-26 “All this I have spoken whil still with you, but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”)
• Are NOW teaching and leading this new church.
BUT, lest you think that is an advantage they had that we will never overcome...remember what the New Testament of the Bible contains: Their EYEWITNESS account of Jesus and His ministry and all the Holy Spirit led and inspired applications of that truth for the CHURCH (first century to present!)
**When we READ, STUDY, MEDITATE ON and OBEY the Bible...WE are devoted to the apostles’ teaching too!
The 3 other basics:
“To the fellowship…” This does not mean they were committed to “getting together” (which often passes for fellowship in churches today) The best way to say that would be “They were committed to the shared life.” These believers were convinced that they had something of great value to share with each other. In Romans 1:11-12, Paul expressed it this way: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” True biblical fellowship is when I share my LIFE, my GIFTS and my HEART with you...and am willing to receive the same from YOU.
• What does Paul say about the Body in 1 Corinthians 12? That each part NEEDS the other parts.
• Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
• “To the breaking of bread…” This refers to the breaking of bread as a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice...what we would call “communion” or “the Lord’s table”. We shared communion last Sunday evening and do so every month. Some fellowships do it every week. The indication in the First Century church is that they took the bread and the cup almost every time they were together. SOMEONE would take the bread and the cup and remind them of the sacrifice of Jesus and would say “Our Master and Savior Jesus said that whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim His death until He comes again.” A CHURCH THAT GOD CAN USE NEVER LOSES ITS CONNECTION TO THE POWER OF THE CROSS.