Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church
Read Part 3
So, how are you doing? Have you been re-thinking this thing called Church? In your mind, do you have a concept of what a Church is supposed to look like? I donít mean the building that people meet in but what the people look like and what do they do when they meet? Do they follow a form? Is everything already in order? Are they there to participate or
to observe? Is it timed like a TV show or a Turkey in the oven? When the time expires, is it over? Is it a duty or is it devotion? Is, what we have experienced in our lives, in the past, really what Jesus, our Lord, had in mind when He said; "I will build my Church?" Sometimes, in order to restore a fine piece of furniture, layers of old finish, wax, and varnish have to be
removed to see the beauty of the wood grain and craftsmanship beneath that has been covered for years. Perhaps that is true with Church. We want to try to strip away some of the veneer and see the beauty of the church that lies under all the traditions that time have laid on it. So, letís return to the scene of the very first Church and notice what it looked like then and
what these early believers did.
Review Ė Last week we noticed that a crowd had gathered to see and hear 120 people speaking the wonderful works of God in the languages of the native countries and not just Aramaic or Hebrew. The listened to Peter preach Godís promises and heard him tell of Jesus crucified, dead, buried and risen again. Realizing that they were just as responsible for
Jesusí death because of their own sins, they repented and received Jesus as their Savior and Lord and confessed the same by baptism. Then Acts 2:42 says that they continued steadfastly; that is, they devoted themselves to at least four things.
Here is a real honest question. What are you devoted to? The words continued steadfastly or devoted themselves to, have the meaning of giving oneís self to, faithfully. What have you given yourself faithfully to?
- These gave themselves faithfully to the apostleís doctrine. That is another way of saying they were committed to learning and to doing whatever Godís word said. The Bible became their basis for everything.
- They also gave themselves faithfully to each other in fellowship. They saw themselves as a community, or more, as a family, and they were sharing life together. They shared their stuff, they shared in stuff, and they shared their lives with their church family
- They gave themselves faithfully to remember Jesus and their relationship with Him through the Breaking of bread of Communion. Perhaps every meal had a time to pause and remember we are a family, because of Jesus. Baptism marked their conversion to Christ, and the Lordís Table marked their Communion with Christ and each other.
- They gave themselves faithfully to prayer. Prayer was never a spectator sport, something we observe, it is something they did in community. I remember one time when a friend had a heart attack and a group of people from his church was there at the hospital and I was the only pastor there at the moment and so I said, "We should pray for him." Now I
expected that they would bow their heads as I prayed like most Baptist would do, but they didnít. When I said, we should pray, twenty voices all began to speak out to God at the same time.
Again, one of Americaís favorite pastors said, Churches can do more than these four things but no real church can do less. These four are the pillars of church.
Now in the text of Acts 2 and the rest of the letter, I believe that there are at least 3 overriding traits of the early church that perhaps Jesus had in mind when He said, "I will build my church." Letís look at them.
Would you stand as we once again read Acts 2:42-47?
1. The Church Worshiped Together.
A. Verse 47 says plainly that they praised God. Praise is a mark of worship throughout scripture. It is attributing to God the glory due His name. It reflects our gratitude, our sense of wonder and more. Verse 43 says, "Then fear came upon every soul." The word fear could be translated terror, or a sense of wonder and awe. This was not a fear
like we are going to die in a horror movie; rather, it is the sense of wonder and awe. It is a feeling of reverence because God is here.
- The church was in awe and we can safely guess why.
- God had visited them in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:68; 19:41-44)
- God had forgiven them who had participated in Jesusí death
- God had come to live in them by His Holy Spirit. The stuff that the O.T. spoke about is happening and God is no longer behind a curtain to be approached by priests on our behalf. He is here in us and He is in us!
- We are hearing and understanding truth (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:9-16)
- Whenever they met they had a sense of Awe because God is here. Do you have that sense of wonder and amazement? Like the songs, I Stand, I Stand in Awe of You; How Great thou Art; I Stand Amazed in the Presence of Jesus; And Can it Be; and others. Does any of this leave you breathless? Do you just want to say, "Wow?" This church did.
- Do you know that God desires your worship; He seeks it. He longs for it much like a husband or wife longs to hear the words, "I love you," come from the heart of the one he or she loves. (John 4:23-24) Yet much of what we call worship has been reduced to a form; pick a few songs, keep it in a time frame, make sure we all like the style we sing them
in and have them accompanied by the instruments we approve of. The result is that many are just singing words from their mouths but not their hearts; like Isa 29:13 says.
B. The People Worshiped God with their Voices from their hearts (v.47 cp. Hebrews 13:15)
- This included singing perhaps the traditional psalms and perhaps some new contemporary worship choruses about Jesusí death and resurrection.
- It also included the prayerful expression of worship and gratitude expressing thanks to God, and praise for His attributes, (He is Holy, Love, a Strong Tower, a Refuge, etc).
- It also included a time of tangible expression of worship in giving something to or for God an offering for the elders, and the poor in the community, and the needs of the church.
- It also included the presentation of oneís self to be given to God (Rom. 12:1) for His service (2 Cor. 5:14)
C. The People Worshiped God Together (v46) Notice three things
- These new Christians continued to meet and go to the temple. This was a place of prayer. Jesus had said so. Perhaps the apostles used the temple and all that occurred there to teach about Jesus because Jesus Himself said that all of scripture was about Him (John 5:39)
- They met in Homes (v.46) to worship, and hear Godís word. Small groups were part of their way of life, because like us they had no building to call their own. You will find this through out the Book of Acts and in Paulís epistles
- While they have met throughout the week in homes and the temple. They would gather in these places on the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) This was the day that Jesus rose again, and every Sunday became Easter Sunday.
- In absolute Awe of Godís grace and presence, this first Church met in homes, publicly, and regularly on the first day of the week to express their worship and praise of God, by singing, praying, giving and listening reverently to Godís word
II. The Church Worked Together (vv. 43-45)
A. To Serve Each Other in the Church Ė There is no doubt that being devoted to Bible teaching, one of the first things they were taught and applied was the New Commandment of Jesus to love each other as He loved them (John 13:34-35). This was probably reiterated over and over again as they taught the Golden Rule, and the second greatest commandment
from Lev. 19:18 and Jesus repeated that with the story of the Good Samaritan and His response to the Pharisees questioning. This is the birth mark, the badge, the photo ID, the authentication of being a Christ-Follower. Paul, James, and John all agree in their writings that this is what practical Christianity is all about, a family caring about taking care of family. John
actually makes a bold statement when He says that, "if you ainít loving, you ainít living." (1 John 3:14-18)
B. To Serve the Needy in the Community (v.47) Listen carefully, and say Amen! In first century Israel, there were no Holiday, or Quality Inns; no Sheratons or Hiltons, yet on every major Holy Day like Passover and Pentecost thousands upon thousands of visitors would come from out of town. It was a hospitable and cultural thing to open your home to
strangers who have come to worship. It was a Spirit much like many of feel at Christmas or Thanksgiving. This first Church began to practice this Holy day Spirit all year long, much like Scrooge did after his conversion in The Christmas Carol. Paul said that when He and Barnabas were sent to preach they were instructed to make sure they remembered the poor (Gal. 2:10) which
he was eager to do. Godís concern for the poor is laced throughout the Bible (Lev. 19) and ought to always be a concern of any church. Jesus our Lord would say that we are to let our light shine in the community by means of good works for which the community will thank God. Peter would repeat that thought in 1 Peter 2:12, (Matt. 5:16). Look at the result of this first Church
in verse 47, they had favor with all the people. The City was glad that this church was there. These people really care
Church should never be just a place we go in order to receive something, but ought to be a gathering of people bonded together by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of ministering as Jesus in this world. Christmas must be in our hearts 24/7/365.
III. The Church Witnessed Together (v.47)
Without an evangelistic program; this church served the community by doing good things in the name of Jesus. Like Peter being used to heal the lame man in the nest chapter. They spoke of Jesus as the fulfillment of Godís promises. They told of life and forgiveness, hope and purpose in Jesus. And the end result was God used them to draw people to Jesus
as Daily, daily, people were saved.
A witness is just someone who tells what he or she has seen, heard, or experienced.
Now, did you notice? This first church took the three great Commands of the New Testament and lived them out in their daily life.
They expressed their Love for God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.
They expressed their love for each other and for their community in tangible ways.
They expressed their love for the world that Jesus died to redeem and God blessed them with new life daily.
We arenít told how to do some of these things we are just told to do them. I would like to express to you that all of us should be involved in three things each week.
- Real Worship Ė From our hearts, adoration and praise, that isnít restrained or defined by a clock. Worship that flows from a sense of awe of Godís greatness and Godís grace in our lives as celebrate the Resurrection and New Covenant every Sunday.
- Real Family Ė that is actively looking to build each other up, helping each other, and studying Godís word together in the context of small groups meeting in each otherís homes, as we practice the holiday hospitality all year long.
- Real Community and World Outreach as we look for ways to bless the community in the name of Jesus. Whether we do it through the programs that already exist like Homeless Shelters, or the Salvation Army, Samaritanís Purse, World Vision, Angel Tree, or come up with our own ideas.
These three things will bless lives and show our community and the world that Jesus really is the Way, the Truth, and The Life.
On last thought, these arenít things that must be approved by the pastor, they are things you need to take the initiative and do. Just Do It. Invite someone out or over, watch a game, do dinner or dessert. Do a Bible Study, Contact the Salvation Army, Rescue Mission, Samaritanís Purse and say, "What Can I do?"
Like Nike Ė Just Do It and may God bless you as you stop just going to church and start being the church!
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman