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D - Disciples are Devoted

September 22, 2013

“D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E.”

Acts 2:42-47 

“Devoted”

 

Children’s Sermon:  What are you devoted to?

Think of something that you like to do better than anything else.  What is it?

Would you give up ice cream for it?

Would you give up a trip to the zoo?

What makes it so important for you?

The New Testament tells us about how the early church, the first Christians, were devoted to Jesus and the things he told them to do.  What are some of the things Jesus wanted them to do?  So they were devoted and wouldn’t let anything come in the way of doing what Jesus wanted them to do.  Did you know that some of them were so devoted to Jesus that they even died for him?  They loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives.  That’s devotion!  Today we’ll look at the Book of Acts that tells us about what the early church was devoted to.  Let’s pray and thank God for our favorite thing to do, and ask him to help us be devoted to him!

 

Intro:

 

What are you truly devoted to?  What are you willing to sacrifice money, time, and energy for so that you can do it!  If you have young kids it may very well be your children.  At open house on Thursday I saw many a parent struggling with what to let their kids sign-up for knowing that it would mean their time spent running kids hither and yon.  I watched them weigh the cost and then Yvonne and I poured on the charm to encourage them to choose XFA! I saw parents devoted to their kids and choosing opportunities that would be good for them.

 

What are you devoted to?  Make a mental list of all the things you are truly devoted to.  Things that take priority in your planning. These are things that get you to say “no” to other opportunities because you need the space to say “yes” to what matters.  I’ll give us a moment . . .  And in all of that where does the body of Christ fit in?  I didn’t say “the church” because that has a different connotation.  The Body of Christ, your brothers and sisters in Christ, the people of God.  What is your devotion like, not just to attending worship, but to the living breathing humans that make up what we call church?

 

Do you think God had an idea of what he wanted the followers of Christ to be like when he breathed the Holy Spirit into them on the Day of Pentecost?  Filled with the Holy Spirit, those first believers began to live out their faith in the ways it seemed natural to do so.  We have a snapshot of what that looked like in Acts 2:42-46.  And for centuries, writers and church leaders have tried to figure out what the church of their time should look like based on what they read in Acts.  Today it’s our turn!  READ Acts 2:42-47

 

Last week I introduced the topic of Discipleship and said that for the next several weeks we would spell out what that word, “disciple” means.  D is for devotion.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is devoted.  But to what?  We’re going to go through the passage we just read and see what comes up there as it is the first description of what the Body of Christ looks like.  This is how the church operated in the beginning.  This is perhaps the church at it’s purest, the followers of Christ at their best, the people of God merely responding to what the Holy Spirit was prompting them to do.  There was no church authority, there were no Creeds, there was no power telling them what they could and couldn’t do, there was only response to what the Holy Spirit inspired them to do.

 

I think we have to start with why.  Why were they so responsive?  Why were they so complete in their obedience?  Why were they so devoted?  I would suggest it was because they were truly grateful for the salvation they found in Jesus Christ and in those that shared in that salvation. 

 

They came together not because of tradition or habit.  They came together because they loved Jesus so much that they wanted to share that love with others who felt the same.  And as they had Jesus in common they had one another in common to and they came to love one another in the most tangible ways.  They were devoted to Jesus and they were devoted to one another.  I hope that makes us think about why we gather here.  Is it habit? Tradition? Or devotion?  Are we motivated by habit or by love for our Savior, Jesus Christ?

 

So what does this snapshot of the church teach us about the first gathering of disciples?

Learning Church

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching

I believe I hit on this last week.  We need to be a people devoted to learning more of what Jesus taught.  You see, our relationship with Jesus is ongoing.  It is an open dialogue and Jesus wants to be known by us, wants to show us the Father, wants the Holy Spirit to be more active in our lives.  We know Jesus by spending time in the Word of God and in hearing it taught and preached by others.

           

Fellowshipping Church

(They devoted themselves) to fellowship

The topic of fellowship is too big to cover here and is a sermon series in itself, but let me just say that fellowship is more than coffee hour once a month.  Being devoted to fellowship means that we are invested deeply in the relationships we have with one another because of Christ.  It is the difference between being a “member” of the church and being a “Covenant partner” in the ministry of the church.  I think we’ll revisit this topic after Christmas.

 

Communing Church

(They were devoted) to the breaking of bread

Communion.  I bet that we all have a different response to it.  In many church sessions the frequency of communion is often debated.  And the reasons for this discussion are based on a variety of conversations as well.  Is once a month too often?  Why can’t we have it every week?  Isn’t once a quarter frequent enough?

I guess it depends on how significant that meal is to the one arguing their case.

In the early church, The Lord’s Supper was the thing that marked them as unique and was the center of their remembering what Jesus had done for them.  If they had had a rough day, or week, when they gathered with people they were devoted to who were devoted to Jesus and broke the bread and share the cup, it would remind them again of who they were in Christ; that they had been redeemed by his body and blood; that sacrifice had been made on their behalf so that they could know forgiveness for their sins. 

 

I wonder if we are so removed that we take it for granted.  I wonder if the 21st Century church is so far removed from Jesus’ death on the cross that we are not devoted to the remembering of it, if we have ceased to be aware of the greatness of that sacrifice.  How is it for you?

 

Praying Church

(They were devoted) to prayer.

When these followers of Christ met together, they prayed together.  Not one person standing in front, offering the prayers of the people, but all of them, in their own voice lifting up praise, adoration, petition, concern to God. 

 

Now I’m a big proponent of saying that you can pray anywhere and anytime and I mean that!  On the fly prayers are my specialty!  But being devoted to prayer means that it is something done deliberately, on purpose, with intent.  There are prayer warriors among us and when I really want something prayed over, those are the persons I ask to pray with me or for me, or for the church.  But as a collective whole, how devoted are we to prayer?

 

Those are the things this snapshot tells us that the early disciples of Christ were devoted to.  Listen to the outcome of that devotion:

  • Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  When was the last time you were in awe of what God was doing.  I’ve got one.  As we have made our way through this process of leaving one denomination for another, the unity among you has been cause for me to be in awe.  Awesome.
  • All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. I believe this is one sign of our devotion to one another; you are generous to one another when there is need.  That leads me back to awe. 
  • Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  Their joy in being together for worship and their hunger to learn more from the teaching of the apostles drove them to gather every day!  The point I would make here is not the frequency of their gathering as much as their desire and hunger to be together.  I’ve complimented you twice so now I need to confront.  When we have worship opportunities that are outside of a Sunday morning, why is attendance so poor?  Besides having another commitment that you can’t break, why do you choose not to come?  This has to do with Fellowship which I said we’ll pick up after Christmas, so be thinking about that.
  • They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, When was the last time you had non-family members from the church over to your house for dinner?           
  • praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  The unity and joy expressed by the gathered community of Christians not only honored God but also brought honor to the disciples from the community!  When we, with joy, help out at Roman Holidays, when we serve in the community and honor Christ in it all, we find favor.
  • And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  Do you remember what I said last week about how we would know we were doing the job God has called us to do?  Baptisms, the outward sign of inwardly transformed lives.  People coming to Christ and being added to our number.

 

Concl.  I’m not sure what your vision of the Rome Presbyterian Church is, but I find this snapshot of the early church a really good place to start.  I rejoice in the things we are already doing well to honor God. I am praying about the places we need to grow.  Will you join me in those prayers?  I pray that God would transform us as individuals and a community so that we are:

Learning Church

Fellowshipping Church

Communing Church

Praying Church

A Church in Awe of God’s wonders

Sharing Church

Congregating Church

Meal sharing Church

Favored Church

Growing Church

 

Amen.