“Dynamically Driven & Devoted” (Acts 2:42-47)
Over the last few weeks we have explored what the Bible says about the Body (Church) & our part in in. But is all of this just theory? Is it just nice religious ideas without context or basis in reality? The answer is NO! So, to dispel any myths, doubts, or idealization we will simply try to answer some simple questions: What does a healthy Body look like practically? How should it function on a daily basis? What should we see in the church regularly?
The best way I know how to answer these questions is to go directly to the book of Acts where we see the church being birthed in the first few chapters. And in doing so, it is clear that the “Early Church” (EC) had some context that jump started who and what they would become. And that spark was simply this: the Early Church had a true encounter with Jesus. They were convinced 100% that Jesus was alive and that His claims about Himself were true and worthy of putting their faith in. Jesus had revealed Himself to them after the resurrection and they RESPONDED!
It’s my belief that this cycle of R&R, and no that is not Rest & Relaxation, it is Revelation + Response is pivotal in understanding how God works in the world. Most of the really big “God” things in the Bible were initiated by God Himself. It’s not us coming up with cleaver ideas how to promote God and Him pitting His stamp of approval on them. It’s usually the other way around. He wants to do something big, so He lets us in on His plans and then the ball is in our courts. Do we respond or not? And the best response is to simply send the “ball” back to God and let Him do the work His way. And that is exactly what the EC did! And I believe when we do as well that our church meeting will be a bit more like Rest & Relaxation!
In Acts 2:42 we have a model for how the church must be run. We see that the Early Church “devoted” themselves to 4 things: 1. Apostles Doctrine, 2. Fellowship, 3. Breaking of Bread, and 4. Prayer. These were the essentials. This was their simple response to God’s revelation in their lives.
Now, Acts 2:42 was written & lived out in Context. I don’t believe that this is like the “Purpose Driven Church” (I.e. – do these 4 things and church will be great!). In fact we don’t actually see that the EC had a real clear idea what they were doing or that they were “church planting.” Their devotion to the Word, fellowship, communion, and prayer were not sophisticated, sociologically engineered church planting methods. No, the EC was not a Purpose Driven Church, but a “SPIRIT driven church”!!! [BTW – PDC is not a bad concept, but don’t think God is limited to our formulas]
I believe what made the Early Church dynamic was that it was a church that: 1. EXPECTED the Holy Spirit to come, 2. they ENCOUNTERED the Holy Spirit, and 3. it was EMBOLDENED by the Holy Spirit!
Q: What was the context of the EC’s devotion?
Straight away in Acts 1 we see that Jesus meets the Disciples & tells them to wait for the “Promised Power” (Acts 1:4-8) What power? Well, from the text we see that it was the power to be a witness for Him. The bold ability to share and popularize Jesus to the world! But remember that the command was “wait” for this gift. Now, remember as a kid how hard that was… it is still hard at times. But the EC waited. And as they await with expectation for the Holy Spirit this group of believers are united in prayer(Acts 1:14; 2:1). To me this is like throwing the ball back into God’s court. And how does God respond? Well, in Acts 2 we see that the Holy Spirit falls on the EC & they become radical witnesses for Jesus!
And what were the results of all of this waiting and praying and receiving? Acts 4:41 tells us that God added 3,000 new believers to the church that day! Wow, what a church planting strategy! How simple – just respond to God and let Him do the work!
What an exciting church! Can we be like this???? The model is real simple! The EC was a church “in step” or “in tune” with the Holy Spirit. And as a result they were able to DEVOTE themselves to these 4 things- the Word, fellowship, communion, and prayer.
Now Acts 2:42 lets us know that this crowd of 3,000+ responded to their new found faith & the work of the Holy Spirit by devoting themselves to the Word, fellowship, communion, and prayer. It must be said that our understanding of “devotion” is pretty watered down. “Devotion” doesn’t mean intellectual agreement, an appreciation for, or a concept sometimes applied when convenient. However, devotion does mean in a Biblical sense to focus yourself on something or to give your express attention to it. Essentially to pattern your life upon the goal before you. Devotion is also your passion. That thing that gets you excited and energized and defines who you are.
It was a passion for the Word, fellowship, communion, and prayer that defined what the Early Church was all about. So, lets take a closer look at these four foundational focuses of the EC.
The WORD: Literally in the text it says the EC hung on the “apostles doctrine.” And what exactly was this “apostles doctrine?” Doctrine simply means “good teaching.” And from the New Testament we can see that the Apostles simply taught the Scriptures and how Jesus was the fulfillment of the WORD. Much of this comes out of their recent crash course Bible school lesson with Jesus just a few days prior to Acts 2 (see Luke 24:44-49 for the back story)! In short the Apostles simply preached God’s Word.
God’s word is simply God’s Revelation. It’s His opinion on life, us, and how to relate to Him and others. I believe 100% that just as the EC devoted themselves to the Word that we also should study God’s Word together. This seems obvious, but so many churches simply don’t. Eugene Patterson writes in his intro to the Message that he created his translation of the Bible out of a desire to get his congregation to simply read the Word. Devotion to the Scriptures had been neglected.
Today, let us: “Get God’s perspective on Himself, life, relationships, & the world around us”. The best way to do so is to search out God’s revelation chapter by chapter and verse by verse. It’s all good and it’s all Spirit breathed. So, lets take it all in! But that’s just the first step. We must respond to revelation. So, as we read, let us obey! lets put the Word into practice. And also, expect that as your read and respond that it will change your life (2Tim 3:16)!
Fellowship: The Early Church was also passionate about Fellowship. Now fellowship means more then – they liked hanging out together. Or they had some similar ideas, or something casual like that. Fellowship means to have “deep commonality” with someone. It’s an intense connection with others that transcends all the things that normally divide us. I love that the Bible challenges our individualistic, self centered hearts. We are called not to a private faith, but a faith lived out in community.
Today, Let’s build a community together. Why live our faith alone? Why play church? Let’s enter into honest relationships with one another in Christ. Let’s strive to love, submit & serve each other as an expression of our love for Jesus! The writer of Hebrews challenges us to be committed to meet spiritually & socially with one another (Heb 10:23-25). And by doing so we will push each other further along in our faith and “spur” each other on to greater acts of “love and good deeds.” And as we meet in true fellowship, not just superficial image management, we will be loving, submitting, and serving one another in Christ! (1Jn 4:7; Eph 5:21)
Breaking Bread: this is simply taking the Lord’s Supper (1Cor 11:23-26). And as we have studied a few weeks ago, the focus of Communion is simply to remember Jesus. It all about taking a second as a community to reflect on all the great things He has done for us and continues to do in our lives. Let’s do it!
Prayer: This should be a no brainer. But in reality, prayer is one of the most neglected spiritual practices in the church today. Everyone talk about prayer, Christian bookstores are full of books on prayer, but so few people actually pray! There are many ways we can be devoted to prayer, but one way I would like to encourage you is to simply “adore” God. Love on Him. And experience His love for you in the process. Today, lets express our feelings together about God to God. Let’s make Him famous (glorified). Let us adore Him.
Ok.. so let’s wrap all of this up. It’s great that we have talked about being “Dynamically Driven & Devoted,” but what is the bottom line. Show me the results. Just read Acts 2:43-47. The results just jump off the pages. We see the Early church was amazed as amazing things happened! 1)The Body took care of the Body! 2) They joyfully praised God! 3) They earned the favor/respect of unbelievers! 4) God grew them both numerically & spiritually! Amazing!
Q: Do we want this?
Some questions to meditate on:
Is our church Spirit Driven?
Are our Devotions true?
Are we seeing the same fruit?