Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is the fifth in my series on the Book of Acts.
“The Church You’ve Always Longed For”
Acts 2:42-47 5.20.07
What is this thing called “church” supposed to be? False ideas about church…
• A building
• A high-falutin’ affair where you dress up and go to
• A “show” where you’re entertained, sort of an “amateur hour” about God
• And then, some folks seem to think that church is supposed to be “all about me”
o “Me Church” clip
A good place to find out what church is supposed to be all about is to look at the very first church on record; there are some queues that we can take from the early church that I believe translate well into our setting 2000 years later. I believe that this church, this first church, though it lacked in business savvy, organizational development, technological advancement, marketing know-how, and even theological fine-tuning, nonetheless represented the kind of entity that every one of us would find appealing, the church that you’ve always longed for! Let’s look at our text for the morning, found in Acts 2:42-47:
“’They’ devoted themselves” – “they” were the early followers of Jesus, what we call the “church” in its earliest form. The context of this passage is that the church was formed after God’s Holy Spirit came in a powerful display to a group of about 120 people gathered together in prayer, and the result of the message given by Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, was that 3000 people began to follow Jesus and were baptized, an unprecedented event. This passage today explains how these people, the early church, conducted their affairs. And they had several committed focuses (“devoted” connotes a deep level of commitment):
I. The Commitments of a Great Church
A church is defined by the commitments that it makes, its “core values”. We have spent some time hashing through our commitments at Red Oak. Notice the early church’s core values:
Specifically, the author Luke records this as “the apostles’ teaching.” This refers to the body of truth about Jesus’ life and work, what He did and taught, His crucifixion and resurrection from the grave, and the like. It was important that those who had been eyewitnesses of Christ’s life and teaching, His death and resurrection, transmit these truths to those new to the faith.
This church was a learning group. They wanted to pursue understanding and growth in their relationship with God; they were not content with “business as usual”. I hope today that that characterizes you, that perhaps one of the key reasons you are here today is because of a desire to develop spiritually as a person. Church cannot be a place where the already convinced gather to show off their spiritual goodness and congratulate each other on the fact that they are enlightened; it must be a place where people humbly admit their ignorance and seek to learn, grow, and develop.
This wasn’t some merely mystical group, a group that had had some kind of experience with Jesus but whose minds were not in touch with their experience; quite the opposite! We do not turn our minds off, but we turn them on, when we truly experience Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that the key to changed living is changed thinking, that our minds do not think correctly as a result of our sinfulness, and the antidote to this is learning and understanding the Word of God; two of our core values are that we will be “Bible-centered” and be committed to “intentional disciplemaking”, and by this we mean that we will intentionally teach the Bible in a variety of ways in order to help people grow in their knowledge of it, so that in growing in knowledge, they’ll be able to live differently, live to please God in their daily lives. Next, they were devoted to
B. The Fellowship
Notice that there is a definite article in front of the term “fellowship”; what this signifies is that those who made up this church weren’t so much devoted to doing something—“fellowship”—as they were to the people with whom they would fellowship, “the fellowship”. These folks were committed to each other in some deep and meaningful ways, ways which we’ll explore in more detail in a few moments. There was an integral relational component to the church. And it’s my observation, from having been in a whole lot of churches in my 29 years...that in way too many churches, the people who are seated all around us on Sunday morning are only incidental to our experience of God. In other words, in too many churches, I could do my own thing with God, and if there weren’t another soul in the building except maybe the minister and the choir, I wouldn’t be hampered much at all. And I think that’s sad, and it certainly wasn’t the experience of the early church.