Together Is Better Series
Contributed by Brian Bill on Oct 28, 2019 (message contributor)
Summary: When we gather together we will grow, give and go with the gospel.
Together is Better
Rev. Brian Bill
October 26-27, 2019
I’m the bearer of both bad news and good news today. I’ll start with the bad news. A story appeared on the front page of the Dispatch/Argus last Sunday with this headline: “Is Your Religion Nothing?” The article was a summary of a new Pew Research Center study entitled, “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace."
A sense of sadness came over me when I read the report (we posted a link on Sermon Extras). Here’s the opening paragraph: “The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip…65% of American adults described themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular, now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.”
I appreciate Albert Mohler’s insight,
“We need to recognize…the fact that our nation is growing more distant from the Gospel, more distant from Christ, and hardening its resistance to Christian truth. These changes have been visible for some time, but there’s a startling new velocity to the changes…the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains as true as ever…our responsibility, regardless of the survey data, is to teach and preach and tell and take the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. This new report…should make us even more determined to be faithful in our evangelism, starting right at home.”
After percolating on this bad news, I came across some good news from Christianity Today called, “The Early Church Thrived Amid Secularism and Shows How We Can Too.” Here’s part of the article (this is also posted on Sermon Extras):
The success of the early church was certainly not inevitable. Christians could have accommodated to the culture to win recognition and approval, which would have undermined the uniqueness of their belief system and way of life. Or Christians could have isolated themselves from the culture to hide and survive, which would have kept them on the margins—safe, to be sure, but also irrelevant.
Instead, Christians engaged the culture without excessive compromise and remained separate from the culture without excessive isolation. Christians figured out how to be both faithful and winsome. Nothing short of a change of church culture will suffice—from a culture of entertainment, politics, personality, and program to a culture of discipleship. Such a radical change will require patience, steadiness, and purposefulness.
The good news is, we are not alone, and the story of early Christianity reminds us of this fact. Faithful Christians have gone before us, bearing witness to the truth of Christianity, the power of the gospel, and the high calling of discipleship. Calling out across the centuries, they tell us that it is possible now, as it was then, to live as faithful followers of Jesus the Lord in a culture that does not approve of it or reward it. Two millennia ago, Jesus Christ—his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension—set in motion a movement that turned the world upside down. He is the same Lord today. It can happen again.
In our journey through the Book of Acts we’ve been learning that the first followers of Christ lived on mission in the midst of a messed up world. Last weekend we discovered the depth of our devotion determines our awe and our impact. These difference-makers made an impact because they were committed to preaching, partnering, partaking and praying.
Let’s stand and read the closing verses of Acts 2:44-47: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Last weekend we focused on the actions of the early church. Today we’ll unpack their attitudes and the affect they had on the culture around them. Here’s what I want us to get: When we gather together we will grow, give and go with the gospel.
1. Gather together. Look at verse 44: “And all who believed were together…” All were together because every believer knew they belonged to every other believer. The phrase “were together” is in the imperfect tense, meaning they made it a practice of gathering together all the time. This is similar in thought to Acts 4:32: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul…”
Have you ever been tempted to neglect gathering together with God’s people? You probably know some Christians who have disengaged from church and are now drifting. Here’s one thing I’ve learned in 35 years of ministry: If you unplug, you will unravel. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”