May 25, 2021
“The Church is the Hope of the world.” I’ve often said this. You’ve often heard me says this. And the reason I say this, is that the Church of Jesus Christ despite its shortcomings, still remains the greatest force on earth for good. Nothing else is like it and nothing else can match it. There is no other community on earth where you see people from different races or economic backgrounds loving each other and living as friends with one another. There’s no other community on earth where you can find a place to belong without having to measure up to some standard of acceptance. There is no other community on earth that can change you and help you become the change our world needs. And there’s no other community on earth that exists for the good of people who are actually not a part of it. That’s why I believe in the Church. That’s why I believe the church is the hope of the world.
But here’s the issue facing us today: We can’t be the hope of the world without sharing the hope we have together. There’s no question that live in a world that’s hungry for hope. With all the tumult of this past year living through a Pandemic, experiencing racial unrest, and major political upheaval, the events of our day has made many question their mortality, their economic future, whether civilization as we know it is coming to an end, and for many is there any real hope to be found in God. Our world is struggling to find hope, and the greatest untapped force for hope in our world today is the Church of Jesus Christ.
So this morning, I want us to look at four practices that the early church was devoted to doing that made them the hope of the world. Four practices that helped God’s people become an irresistible force for hope. And as we look at these together, we’re going to ask ourselves if we are devoted to these same practices. So if you brought your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to find Acts 2:42-47, and let’s take a fresh look at how we might reboot the hope we share together.
But before we look at the first practice, I want to unpack the meaning behind the main action verb in this text. Luke uses the word “devoted” to describe the passion behind these four practices. What exactly does this verb mean? In the original language of the Greek New Testament, this word “devoted” means to “steadfastly continue in” “to be busily engaged in,” or “to busy oneself with.” What you are devoted to is what you constantly think about, regularly give your life to, or continually make plans for. When you were first dating your spouse, this is who you were devoted to. If you’re anything like me, your entire focus in life changed while you were dating. For me, all my thoughts, all my plans, all my decisions centered around Becky – being with Becky. I wanted to learn what made her happy. I wanted to learn what she liked and didn’t like. I was devoted to pleasing her, to winning her heart, to just spending time with her. I was devoted to her.
Now, another aspect of this term “devoted” is the attitude you what brought you to Robson when you retired: All of a sudden you could devote your energy to making new friends; you could devote your energy to doing activities you couldn’t do while you were still working: stuff like traveling, learning pickle ball or improving your golf game. Or you could devote yourself to new habits like wood-crafting, or pottery or quilting.
The idea is that is that when you are devoted to something, whatever that is, you are eager to give yourself fully to what has captured your heart. And in the case of these first Christians, they were eager to give themselves to the following practices that made them the hope of the world. And the first of these practices was this:
1) Being Devoted to Learning Together They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 The first habit they gave themselves to was learning the apostle’s teaching. And what was the subject of the apostle’s teaching? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. They taught these new believers what it means to follow Jesus. They were eager to learn about Jesus. They had a passion to learn how He lived, what He taught, and what He did. So the apostle’s taught them constantly about Jesus. And since they had no written gospels, the apostles spent most of their time helping people put an oral gospel of Jesus to memory. They were devoted to forming their lives around the story of Jesus.
You see at the heart of every genuine Christ follower is this driving passion to follow Jesus – to get to know Him, learn His will, and discover how to live the new life of the kingdom. These first believers didn’t just add Jesus to their already busy lives, Jesus became the center of their lives. So they learned to follow Jesus together. Notice this word, “together.” This is the one word that characterized the life of the first Christians. They did everything together. They went to the Temple courts together to hear messages about Jesus. They met together in their homes to memorize the stories of Jesus. They gathered together around their tables and shared meals around their common bond in Jesus. Everything about the early church was founded on their passion for Jesus… They couldn’t get enough of Jesus!
This is what I love about my Journey group. Every week, we’re reading about Jesus, discovering the wisdom, the grace, the mercy and compassion of Jesus. There really is no one like Jesus. And the more we are learning about Jesus, the more God is doing something in us. He’s knitting us together in our common love for Jesus. The life of Jesus is rubbing off on us, and as it is, Jesus is changing us. We’re becoming more transparent, more trusting and more caring with one another. Our devotion to learning the apostle’s teaching is changing us. And it gives us hope.
So let me ask you: Do you have this kind of driving passion to follow Jesus? Are you forming your life around the life and teachings of Jesus? Do you find yourself becoming more like Mary who was content to simply sit at the feet of Jesus? Are you spending time with Jesus with others? If not, why not? This is what our Journey Groups are all about: Getting together with other Christ followers who want to learn how to live and love like Jesus. Having brothers and sisters in your life who support you in your journey with Jesus – friends who support you, pray for you, and encourage you in your walk with Jesus?
That’s how the early church turned the world upside down. It was their passion to learn more and more about Jesus. It was their passion for Jesus that made them an irresistible force for hope. And having this same passion can do the same for us! Being devoted to learning together, forming our lives around Jesus. That’s the first practice of a church who becomes the hope of the world. Now, let’s look at the next practice that made God’s people the hope of the world:
2) Being Devoted To Sharing Life Together Now we read in verses 42, and 44-45 the following: They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Acts 2:42, 44-45
What we see here is that out of their devotion to Jesus sprung this unbridled devotion for one another. They were devoted to the fellowship. They were devoted to what they had in common with one another. That’s what this word “fellowship” means. Koinonia. The basic meaning of koinonia is that of sharing, but it is also used to describe intimacy of shared relationship, or the sharing of possessions. So koinonia was an amazing new experience for these new Christians. Now every Christ follower shared so much in common with every other Christ follower: They all shared the same faith in Jesus. They all shared the same experience of forgiveness, the same freedom in Christ, the same peace, joy and hope flooded their hearts. Not only that, They all shared the same repentance. Each one of them had turned to Jesus as their Lord. Each one of them had turned away from the empty life of living for sin and self, and had turned to God and found a whole new way of living with Him. They also all shared the same Spirit. They shared a common bond in the Holy Spirit and that led them ALL to call on the same Father. So each one understood how they were ALL part of the same family – God’s forever family; and that radically changed how they saw one another. And so when they SAW one of their new brothers or sisters in need, they did whatever it took to meet that need. A new kind of generosity was birthed in this new community that not only met needs but showed the world around them a new way of doing life together. And it showed the world hope.
And I’ve seen this same kind of sharing over and over again in our Church. This is one of the true blessings of being connected with God’s people. What a blessing so many of you were to Don Juillerat and his daughters over the last few months – many of you shared hours sitting with Don, encouraging him with your presence, with your friendship and with prayer. Many of you shared meals and did whatever was needed to support to his daughters. And it’s this sharing of your life, your care and your possession that reveals your hope.
But the greatest aspect of this devotion to sharing is really the sharing of yourselves with one another in the intimacy of relationship. You see, one of the toughest aspects of this pandemic was that we were forced to be separated from doing life together. The Holy Spirit by design is the One who knits us together, helps us comfort one another, encourage one another and serve one another. This reality of sharing life together is one of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit and what makes God’s church such a beacon of hope. For it is this sharing of the joys and burdens of life is what our world is looking for. It’s another way we show the world hope. And the good news is that now we can begin to reboot our fellowship with one another!
That is why, beginning next week, we are going to start doing connection breaks again, and beginning next month, we are going to begin creating opportunities for us to fellowship with one another outside our morning worship gathering. And I can’t wait. God’s Spirit has wired us to be together, to share together, to grow together so we’re going to get together. In fact, we are working on plans right now to put together a number of events were we can reboot our life together. Things like and Ice Cream Social, Church Picnic, barbecue, Outdoor Movie nights, and maybe even a Block Party. We’re going to reboot being together. For when we are devoted to sharing life together, this how we get to show the world hope. That’s how the early church attracted unbelievers to Jesus, and how we can too. And that leads me to the third practice that made God’s people the hope of the world and that practice is this:
3) Being Devoted to Worshiping Together Again we start with verse 42, They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:42-43: 46-47
We see all kinds of great stuff here. These first Christians were devoted to the breaking of bread together. This is the term for celebrating the Lord’s Table. They centered their worship around what Jesus had done for them. They were committed to remembering the work of Jesus on the cross. From the very beginning, they kept the cross central to worship. From the very beginning they constantly reminded themselves of God’s mercy and grace to them in Jesus. They were not only forming their new life around the story of Jesus, but the cross of Jesus.
And as they did, we see this: Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. A sense of awe filled the hearts of all believers because they experienced God at work among them. They experienced this awe daily. We don’t know all the wonders and signs that were performed. They aren’t listed here. But we do know there were healings. We know that sinners were forgiven, love was flowing and needs were met. But the point here is not the specific miracles – the point was that God was near and He was working. And because God was at work and changing lives daily – this work of God was the most awe inspiring reality of all. For there is nothing greater than to see God take a hard and prideful man and transform him to a gentle servant. Or to see God take a sin-scarred women and change her into a miracle of radiant joy.
And I can’t help but think that’s what was happening here, for as they worshiped together in the temple courts and from house to house, not only were they filled with awe for what God was doing, but ate together with glad and sincere hearts – and were constantly were giving praise to God! Their praises became a natural part of their conversation around the dinner table. God was working, lives were changing, and people were noticing! For whatever God was doing in their midst – people around saw it and it gave them hope. People knew something good was happening; something authentic, life-changing and they wanted in on it. As Luke details for us: They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47
There’s just something contagious about Christians who are full of joy and praise. When our hearts are set on worshiping God, we are not focused on ourselves. And that’s refreshing. People are drawn to authentic faith. People are drawn to those who are having a good time. I’ve heard it said that Christians ought to throw the best parties! Not with wine and liquor, but with contagious joy and enthusiasm for life found in a genuine relationship with God. People are drawn to a winsome witness, not to a bunch of stern rule keepers.
Here’s the thing: People are curious about the Church. They are curious to see if God is real and working among us. And one way we get to show the world that there’s another way to live is by our genuine and joyous praise of God. So if there’s one thing God would like to see rebooted among us, is this contagious and joyous praise of who He is and what He is doing. Why? Because when first Christians found themselves rejoicing and praising God, God did something pretty amazing: The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Why were they being saved? Because they saw the genuine gladness of a people praising their God. God was real to them! And my prayer is that God would fill us so full of His Spirit, so full of His grace, so full of His mercy, that God would change us and rekindle in us the joy of our salvation so that we would show the world that God is real to us, and that He is good. That’s how the early church attracted unbelievers to Jesus, and how we can too. And that leads me to the final practice that made God’s people the hope of the world and that practice is this:
4) Being Devoted to Praying Together Let’s read verse 42 one more time: They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 I love this aspect of the early Church. Not only did these believers share the same Savior, the same bond of the Spirit, but because the Spirit was alive in them they all now had access to the same Father in prayer. I love how Paul writes about this in Romans: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:14-15
These first believers knew that Jesus had been sent by the Father, that they had been loved by the Father and had entered into a loving relationship with the Father as His beloved children. The Spirit within them gave them access to God as their Father. So they took advantage of this access. They knew they had no power of their own. But they knew God had all power because He had raised Jesus from the grave. So they didn’t need anyone to convince them to be devoted to prayer – they gave themselves to prayer wholeheartedly. God was now real to them. God was working in their midst. And God was available to them anytime and anyplace. So they gathered for prayer at the Temple. They prayed together in their homes. They loved to pray together. They were devoted to praying together.
So what did they pray? They prayed Old Testament prayers. They prayed the Shema. But they also learned the prayer Jesus taught His disciples: The Lord’s Prayer. By praying the Lord’s prayer together, they kept their focus on glorifying God, they kept their focus on doing God’s will and on seeing God’s kingdom become a reality in their lives. This prayer focused their hopes on God and what God wanted to do through them. They understood early on that this earthly kingdom was not their true home. But that God’s invisible kingdom – the reign and rule of Christ in the heart of every man, woman and child was paramount. So this was prayer became their hope. And God used these prayers to make them the hope of the world.
And that is why it is my prayer that God would reboot this desire in us to meet with Him in prayer. That prayer would be central to our worship together, to our Journey Group gatherings and to all we attempt to do together. And this is why we are starting a monthly prayer gathering, beginning June 3rd. Oh what God might do through us if we devote ourselves to Him in prayer?
I can only imagine. And what I imagine is what we see here in this text:
- That we’ll become a people eager to follow Jesus together.
- That we will become kindred spirits who will share the joys and burdens of life together.
- That we will become a people filled not only with awe at what God is doing among us, but will be filled with genuine joy and delight, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
- And that we might become the hope of the world – so that once again the Lord would add to our number daily those who are being saved.
- May God help us see what He wants to do through us – so that together we might who the world the hope we have in Jesus!