Summary: Lessons from the very early Church and encouragement for believers and seekers to put their faith in the apostles teaching, be part of the Church family, worship God and reach the lost!
Not long after the death and resurrection of Jesus Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote down the most important aspects of the birth, the life, and the teaching of Jesus. They recorded the details of his death and his resurrection from the dead. Luke then went on the record the details of the life of the early church and we have just heard an excerpt, a snippet from Luke’s second book which has become known as ‘The Acts of the Apostles’.
But what can we learn from events which took place 2000 years ago? Of course I’ve just used the word ‘learn’ and perhaps if you’re experience of school was not a good experience, ‘learning’ might be the last thing on your mind: My experience is that my life of faith in Jesus Christ includes learning about Jesus; it includes an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus; it includes receiving love, forgiveness and direction from Jesus, and sharing Jesus with others.
That also was the experience of the early Church and it is the experience of people today who are regularly coming to faith in Jesus; and I know that it was a great joy for my colleague David to baptise a teenager this week after she encountered and came to faith in Jesus.
If our relationship with Jesus is like a journey, then each of us is at a different point on the road and that’s OK! The end of the journey is Jesus. All who have faith in Jesus will be with him at our journey’s end.
But in the meantime there is a journey to be travelled and the next leg of my journey takes me and my family to Billericay. Yes, we’re massively sad to be leaving here, and desperately sad to be leaving you, but the Christian life has a wonderful continuity about it! Learning about Jesus, encountering Jesus, receiving Jesus’ forgiveness and direction, and sharing Jesus with others does not change.
My life of faith in Jesus does not change as a result of moving to a different place and I would like to give four reasons for that:
1: The Bible
(Acts 2: 42) ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.’
History is God’s story, literally ‘His story’. The events of the life of Jesus are in here and God’s plans and purposes for us are in here. The stories which Jesus told often need some thought but Jesus said that the one who seeks will find. If you want to get to know Jesus then the Bible is the place to begin.
When I worked for ‘The Woolwich’ I would often open my Bible at lunch time and read half a page, asking God to speak to me through what I read; and God does speak to us through the Bible.
I have a friend called Derek who was experiencing awful difficulties at home. Life was becoming unbearable but one day he picked up a small, red Gideon Bible which was given to him at school when he was 11 years old. Perhaps you still have one? Derek is no great reader, but he read and read and read; and Derek put his faith and his trust in the central character of the New Testament; Jesus. Derek’s life was slowly transformed.
For busy people the internet is a great way of reading a bit of the Bible each day. ‘www.word-on-the-web.co.uk’ is excellent.
2. The Church family
(Acts 2: 46) ‘Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.’
My experience has been that in the various different places I have lived, the Church, the Christian family, has been a family way beyond anything I could ever have imagined. No wonder Jesus pointed to his disciples (Matthew 12:49) and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
I not only encounter Jesus through the Bible, but I also encounter Jesus through my Church family, through you! Jesus could only be in one place at one time during his earthly ministry. That’s why he had to leave. He died but God raised him from death and Jesus spent a few weeks teaching his disciples, but he had to go so that they could receive the gift of his Holy Spirit so that they and we can be Jesus to the world. I am very grateful for the ways in which many of you have been Jesus to me. I am also humbled by the way in which you are Jesus to each other.
(Acts 2:42) ‘They devoted themselves to …prayer.’
(Acts 2:47) ‘…praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.’