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Life Matters

The Gathering

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(10/20) I don’t know if you’ve caught the love bug or not… but I want you to know that I really love our church; and Jesus really loves our church; and I know that… because the Holy Spirit loves to show up at our church. So I love that and I get really excited to meet with you and to share with you what’s going on in our church.

You know I’ve always got goals and dreams. I can see the church at full maturity, multiple locations, thousands of people. I can see that. But today I would rather have a healthy church than a really big church. I want it to be strong. I want it to have loving, committed leaders and deacons who are going to love and care for the family of God.

I want us to be able to work through the hard issues of life together. I want us to be able to do what the church family’s supposed to do together as we’re on mission in our community. And today here’s where we’re going to go in God’s Word… Acts 2:38–47… I want to share a snap shot of what God shows as a godly, healthy, and growing church.

We’re going to read together at verse 38, and we’re going to see what happens when the Holy Spirit shows up… we’re going to see what happens when the Holy Spirit awakens people to the love and salvation of Jesus… we’re going to see what happens when the Holy Spirit is present among God’s people and the invitation is given out… And so we’re going to read together in Acts chapter 2.

Verse 38, Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call."

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. NIV

1. What it is?

Today, the big question is, "What’s a church?"

How many of you, if somebody came up to you and asked, "What’d you do Sunday?" would say, "I went to church"? If they asked, "What’s a church?" what would your answer be?

The truth is, there are a lot of churches and a lot of Christians who don’t really know what a church is.

I’ve heard some people… well they say their church is in nature. So they go to a different church… they go to church on a hike through the woods… they hang out together at the lake… maybe even get in a boat and water ski all day. But is that church? No, those are just people in the woods, on a lake, enjoying God’s creation, but it’s selfish isn’t it? It’s not church.

I’ve heard other people say, "Well, you know, we go to a coffee shop, or we go out to dinner, we hang out together, and we just visit, it’s accountability, you know? It’s good hanging out time. That’s my church."

Is that church? No… it’s not church.

Some people are involved in church ministries. So, mom’s got some sort of women’s Bible study thing, the kids have their thing, and the high school kids go to their thing, and they kind of have this various collection of ministries that they’re all involved in individually. In the meantime, they listen to some praise songs on the radio, maybe download some podcasts, and put it all together in this big, huge stew, and that’s their church.

But is that a church? No! Are any of those things bad? No! We’re not against drinking coffee, hiking, or getting together for a Bible study. All of those things can be perfectly fine and good, but they’re not the church.

So where would you go to define the church, to explain the church, and to communicate the church?

How many of you would go to Matthew chapter 18 where it says… and this is the most common definition of the church that I’ve ever heard… and it’s wrong, so don’t say it too confidently, but it says this in Matthew chapter 18, the Lord Jesus says, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matt 18:20). And so some people say, "Well, that’s it. Anywhere there’s two or more believers gathered, the Lord is with them. That’s a church."

But is it really? No! Matthew chapter 18 is about church discipline. If one person has a conflict with another person, they need to bring in two or three witnesses to help work things out and Jesus promises he will be there mediating and interceding in the midst of that conflict resolution. But, that’s not a definition of a church: that’s the number of witnesses a church should require to untangle some sort of relational, confrontational, divisive sinful knot.

2. Jesus’ Church

What we have just read in the book of the Acts is a snap shot that God gives us of the first century church. You see it’s his Church. Jesus comes and dies for sin. Jesus rises for sinners. Jesus ascends into heaven. Jesus sends the presence… the power… and the person of God the Holy Spirit. And so when the Holy Spirit shows up, the Church springs into being as people are born again and become together, the people of God, the Church, the body of Christ.

Now I wonder how many of you have you ever made a promise?

Promises like how kids will make special promises with each other, called a "pinky promise," right? They’ll link their pinky fingers while speaking and professing some sort of commitment to each other. When dating, sometimes teens will make a promise to each other, even wearing a promise ring. In fact, an engagement ring is a type of a promise ring isn’t it? So is a wedding ring. Unfortunately, especially in the day in which we live, those promises are too often broken… to often forgotten… and anytime people make promises to each other, there is the distinct possibility that the promise will at sometime be overlooked, forgotten, and eventually broken.

However, God is not man. And when God makes a promise, He never breaks it!

The apostle Peter, who just days before had been so mixed up and ashamed that he denied Christ, suddenly is filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly tells all who were present that morning… "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)

The promise of the Holy Spirit is for you… each and every one of us is a part of that promise… each and every one of us is a part of that group… a part of whomever the Lord our God will call! So this is a promise from God! It’s the Promise of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what we see right here in the Church. We see that Jesus’ Church comes into being when he sends His Spirit. Jesus’ Church is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

So, it’s Jesus’ Church. The Church belongs to Jesus. The Church is empowered by Jesus. So the evidence of His Church, is not religious traditions, it’s not things we do for God, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit. The mark of the Church is the Holy Spirit putting the life of Jesus in us… calling us… empowering us… with great enthusiasm and joy to testify to this new life in Jesus.

So there are certain evidences of the Holy Spirit and we want to hear from him, follow him, obey him, love and serve him in the Church, the Body of Christ, because Jesus "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-28). So, today we will look at some biblical principles… we will look at the ways the Holy Spirit is at work in our midst… and some of the methods of how we encourage our fellowship with the Spirit at Christ’s Community Church.

3. Our Community

You see it really is about community… it’s about fellowship… and togetherness. Jesus‘ Church is community, as the Bible tells us, "God has called us into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:9). So we come to Christ by faith in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ… in the love of God… and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). You see, God invites us to be part of His people, to participate in the family of Jesus, to be the Church, and you can be a Christian by yourself, but you can’t be the Church by yourself.

Jesus’ Church is community. Jesus’ Church is relational. And it was the Holy Spirit that brought Jesus’ Church into existence. The Holy Spirit who tells us in Acts chapter 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."

Now some of you are new to church and new to Christianity, you wonder, "Why do we do these things? Why do we have meals Sunday?" Well, because, they’re in the Bible. When the Holy Spirit shows up, these are the things that happen. They’re recorded in the Scriptures. He’s here with us, and we want to follow what the Lord wants us to do.

"Every day..." So it’s a regular gathering… it’s fellowship in community… it’s God’s people meeting to remember, preach, and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But, there’s a myth that I need to correct. And that is that the early church only had small gatherings in homes… that they didn’t have large get-togethers. But that’s not what the Bible says. I mean look at verse 46. Any time you read the word "temple court," just think big, OK? It’s a big room… they didn’t have seats… they didn’t have amplification… but you could get a lot of people in the temple court.

And so the Bible gives us principles for all churches, and the Bible says to preach. How we do that is not important. The method we use is not, but the Bible says, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim 4:2). That’s the principle for all churches.

The Bible says to "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Eph 5:19). That’s the principle. What kind of songs? What kind of music? What kind of instruments? Well that really depends on who you are and where you are, but the principle remains the same.

So, my question to you is… are you committed to Jesus’ Church?

Are you attending regularly on Sunday? Are you participating in our smaller group Bible Studies Wednesday? You see those are part of church… part of community… I encourage you to participate a verse 42 tells us, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

So, you get this idea of community right? They’re getting together, they know each other, they love each other, they serve one another, they’re doing life together. Five times here in chapter 2 we find the word together. Together is the language of community.

What we’re talking about here is a reflection of Jesus’ kingdom. In Jesus’ kingdom, all of Jesus’ people are going to be together forever. In Jesus’ kingdom, we’re going to eat together. And so when we gather together in community… when we fellowship together… it’s a foreshadowing… it’s a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ, where we’ll hang out, worship, and eat with him together forever.

Now kings and kingdoms will come and go. But the Church of Jesus Christ endures forever. It’s the biggest thing on earth. It’s the one thing that Jesus started. It’s the one thing that Jesus died for. It’s the one thing that Jesus loves. And it’s the one thing that will never end.

When everything else ends... God’s people will march together into God’s kingdom… together in community to sing God’s praises… Amen?

So as we close… I am thankful for Jesus’ Church… the gathering of His people in community… one place where anyone and everyone can feel safe in this storm-ravaged world. You know this year it seems as if there's been an amazing amount of turbulence in the atmosphere. On the Weather Channel, most days have shown some part of the country in the bright red indicating severe weather. The news channels are full of amazing videos of powerful tornadoes roaring through Alabama, Oklahoma, and many others this year. And between the storms and alarms here in our community I am thankful that I have a basement… a place to find shelter and comfort in the storm… a place like the Church.

Isn’t that how every Church should be? A place of refuge… the safest place in town.

I believe we can learn from the original template of how God's people are supposed to operate together. These original Christians in Acts 2 showed us how to do it right. They gave us the key to being Jesus' kind of church. They provided a place where you could count on being loved… count on having people care about your needs… and count on finding a safe place. .. that basement refuge… like so many are looking for in an increasingly stormy world.

Jesus’ Church is to be known for one characteristic… one thing Jesus said would draw people to Him... "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

You and I represent our Savior who said, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). We represent the One who was called "the friend of sinners" ... the One who sought out the lost of the lost… and as his representatives, we are providing that one place where anyone and everyone can feel safe in this storm-ravaged world. We are the open door through which people can find the sanctuary in the love of Jesus Christ.

And with that in mind I am excited to announce a new ministry starting this Wednesday. If you want freedom from life’s hurts, hang-ups, and habits I encourage you to check out the new Celebrate Recovery group on Wednesday nights here at Christ’s Community Church. I invite you to come and allow God’s grace to help you solve life’s problems, and allow him to release you from your addictive, compulsive, and destructive behaviors that have been holding you back from authentic joy in your life. To learn more about Celebrate Recovery join us Wednesdays at 7pm. as we celebrate God’s healing and redemptive power in our lives through our loving, healing, Savior Jesus Christ.

Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.

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