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Blessed be your name, O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You chose us in Christ, have promised to make us holy in Christ, predestined us for adoption in Christ, we have redemption in Christ, forgiveness of our trespasses in Christ, and one day You will unite all things in heaven and on earth, together in Christ. We ask that You would give us years and voices and hearts to praise this Christ. Give us faith to believe. Give us wills to obey. Give us ears to hear your voice, now in the reading and the preaching of Holy Scripture. We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
I love old photographs. I bet many of you do, whether they’re really sepia-toned old photographs you see in a book or just looking through a shoebox or a baby book and seeing old photographs. Back when we actually had photographs, as opposed to think I have now 1400 photographs on my phone, and probably about 13 of them are worth saving, we found recently… Now you can’t see this, which I’m thankful for, this is your pastor and his lovely wife. We had been married, this is our first year, and we’re wearing these wonderful T-shirts that say “irresistible” and “Mr. Wonderful” [laughter] and my wife still looks exactly the same. I actually look a little thicker, a little more hair, less gray, not very good I should think.
But there’s a story, there’s a story behind this picture. I can’t remember exactly, but somebody thought it would be very funny to give us these shirts, “irresistible” and “Mr. Wonderful.” We held onto them for many years; I don’t think we have them because, well, we’re not, I guess, anymore. So we don’t have these photographs, you can see this, this is wonderful. I’m sure you have similar embarrassing photographs, and they have a story. Sometimes we know the story, sometimes we don’t know the story.
I didn’t bring it here, but it’s in a drawer at home. It’s one of my favorite photographs, and it’s just in a cheap 8 x 10 frame and it’s a photograph of my grandfather, my mother’s father. He died four, five, six years ago, World War II vet. Saw action in the Pacific theater, in and around Iwo Jima. He was a plane mechanic in the Air Force for the Army. And there’s a photo, and I don’t know the whole story before it, but I love the photo, and it’s of five young men, all sitting there in whatever their division was. I don’t know if it was before they were deployed or it’s after they were deployed, but they’re, some wearing a dog tag, all of them have their shirts off, one might have a cigarette, not my grandfather, and wearing some kind of Army fatigue issue pants, and I just wonder what they were all thinking. Grandfather had a smile on his face, just about the only one in the picture that did. Others seemed to have a look of fear, and you wonder if they had already seen fearful things, or more than likely were heading or were on their way or just landed, and they knew that they were about to see fearful things and each one of those men would have a story to tell, and I don’t know what happened to any of them except my grandfather, who is second from the left. Love to look just at that photo, knowing that each of those men went on to serve this country.
You have similar photos of your parents, of your grandparents, maybe photos even older than that, or can watch a documentary and see the Ken Burns effect on all of those photos, and they give something of a tale. They tell something, maybe of great tragedy, or maybe they’re so framed to present a beautiful picture of the way things were, or the way things we wish they were.
This passage in Acts chapter 2 is something like a vintage photograph of the early church. And like any photograph, you never can completely recreate everything in the original.
You see these now sometimes on your social media feed, people will recreate the outfits that they were wearing. I saw somebody try to recreate, though they did it in a decent way, but of an old photograph when they were like 2 and 3 in the tub together as siblings, and now in their 50s recreating it. It was cuter the first time around. [laughter]
You can’t ever, even if people squeeze into the same outfits and show the same photo, you can’t quite recreate this photograph. We aren’t meant to. It’s a moment in time.
But when we read Scripture, we’re doing more than looking at an old photo. We’re, we’re reading God’s Word. And every bit of it is inspired, profitable to us. And so this photograph of the early Church isn’t simply to look and say “Wow, wasn’t that amazing?” but it’s meant to inspire, correct, shape, equip, train us.
And sometimes you look at the old photos and you say “Wow, I seem to be happier and thinner then.” But sometimes you look at the photo and you say “If only, if only we could be like that.” And when we look at this photo from the early church, it’s God saying to us “Here’s the plan, here’s the picture. How are you doing, Christ Covenant? How are you doing?”
Acts chapter 2, follow along as I read verses 42 through 47. This famous description of the Church, at the end of the equally famous sermon at Pentecost, we read this: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
I said this is like a vintage photograph of the early Church, meant to shape us, perhaps correct us. But I don’t want you to be mistaken—this is not a vision of utopia. Think of what you know about the early Church, from Acts or from the Epistles. They were opposed by the authorities. You have Ananias and Sapphira, who will lie to the Holy Spirit. You have Simon, the magician, who wants to purchase the power of God. Paul and Barnabas get into some sort of squabble that they have to go their separate ways. No, no, no… Luke is not suggesting that oh, the good old days, if only we could be like this church, they had it all perfect, all great, nothing ever went wrong. No, of course that’s not the case. Wherever there are fallen human beings, there is no utopia.
But what he is doing, under the inspiration of the Spirit, is to suggest to us here is a general picture of what things look like. He doesn’t mean to say that it was all just strength to strength, all they ever did, never squabbled, just had wonderful meals together. Well, where are they working? How are they getting money? They’re just fellowshipping and having sermon-fests all the time. This is but a summary.
Just like if you were to say about your family, maybe you wouldn’t say this about your family, but another family, they devoted themselves to the work of the Church, the chores of the house, the playing of many games. Mom and Dad loved each other, the children were respectful, and they enjoyed a good reputation with their neighbors.
Now, if that was said about your family, you would probably say “oh, yeah, right.” [laughter] That’s not exactly the case, but it, it might be generally said, that could be a general statement about what your house might be like. Hopefully, it’s not too far from the truth that you are devoted to the church, you love one another.
Similarly, Luke is giving us a general description of what the Church was like. Like any family, they had problems, but he’s right to show us that in those early days, this was a community centered on Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit, and this is what it looked like in this vintage photograph.
What do we see here? We see four commitments we can control, and then three desired results we cannot control. We’ll spend most of our time on the first four, and then just briefly at the end the last three. Four commitments that we can control as a church, that is to say it’s up to us, under God’s grace, of course, and then three desired results that are entirely of God.
First, they were committed to the apostles’ teaching. You see that in verse 42, the very first thing. Now you might think that the very first thing mentioned would be something else, and they were devoted to loving one another, or they were all devoted to holiness, or they were all devoted to evangelism, or they built Jerusalem’s best soup kitchen. But as important as these might be, it’s not mentioned first.
Now, it’s not to say that this is the only thing that counts, but this is the commitment which stands before all the others, inspires all the others, and holds all the other things together. Namely, they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching.
Now, we can see this commitment in a couple of ways. We see that there was frequent teaching. We read later, day by day, attending the temple together, what was happening there. We know from the rest of Acts that there was teaching there, so they’re receiving frequent teaching.
There’s a first century book, it’s kind of a Church constitution manual called the Didache, that’s the Greek word for teaching, last first century, early second century. You could go find it online—it’s 16 chapters, it’s not that long, but it’s fascinating. And in chapter 11, 12, and 13 you see a lot of instructions in this early church manual about the prophets who would come, the teachers who would come, the apostles who would come. The impression is that there was almost constant teaching in the early church, and there was a whole class of people, might go by some different names, whose job it was to teach and instruct the Church.
Now, of course, most people were illiterate, so they didn’t have, they didn’t have Bibles at home to read, they didn’t have access to the internet, the dial-up was very slow back then. They couldn’t get books just by a click and they show up, so it’s a different, we don’t need to try to repeat it, but it is to show how important constant daily exposure to the Scriptures was.
One of the marks of the Spirit of God in this church is that people are and will be and should be hungry for good teaching. Think I want to learn more of God’s Word, I want to learn it on Sunday morning, I want to come back on Sunday evening in so far as I am able, how can I get plugged into a Bible study, or a small group, or be in someone’s home. How might I redeem my commute time and listen to it. There’s an eagerness for it, a desire for it, to learn from it, to read good Christian books.
I’ve seen it many times, in particular with men because the women often are the better readers than the men are, that when the Spirit gets a hold of a man, either in conversion or just to kick him in the pants with the Holy Spirit, he gets a desire to read. He says I want to know more, I want to learn, I want to go deeper.
Sometimes people will speak disparagingly of churches. Maybe churches like ours. “Oh, it’s just a learning station, it’s just all left brain,” or “it’s just too theological,” or “there’s just teaching all the time.” And we’ve sort of, well, put that, well, we know we got that nailed down.
Listen, it may be the case that a church does not obey biblical teaching, they may not teach what is right from the Bible, they may not adequately feel what they teach, they may not live out what they teach, but it is not the fault of the church, this church or any church, to be steadfastly committed to teaching the Bible.
So, in as much as we may want to elevate and be good at other things that are more difficult for some of us, let us never elevate by denigrating – Oh, it’s just a theology place. Well, this sounds like a place that was really into their Bibles, in the Word, and good teaching. Frequently it was there.
We also see they submitted to it. Now it’s interesting, it says they “devoted themselves,” so not just they were, they were curious. That word “devote” suggests more than just an intellectual apprehension of some doctrines. They’re devoted to it. It’s their life, it’s their breath, it’s what they’re about, it’s what they’re living out. And it says “the apostles’ teaching.” You might think that it would say, well, “they devoted themselves to the teachings of Jesus.” But of course, what they knew of the teachings of Jesus, many of them had witnessed it firsthand, but now it was going to be through the authoritative testimony of the apostles and their close associates under that apostolic umbrella. They devoted themselves to the Gospel as they presented it, as soon they would be writing it down by the inspiration of the Spirit.
This is just another reason why I hope no one here falls for the nonsense of “we are, we’re red-letter Christians.” It always happens, every five, ten years, there’s another stirred up, “you guys have the black letters, we have the red letters,” meaning, well, the stuff that Jesus said, that’s the really inspired stuff. You’re just, your church is all about Paul; we’re about Jesus. As if Paul was not inspired by the Spirit of Christ to write what he did. No, it’s utter nonsense. It’s not the way the Bible works, it’s not the way Jesus understood His own ministry. He says in John 16 He’s sending the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. That is, to give the Spirit-inspired testimony and interpretation of “who I am and what I have done.”
Jesus, now if your Bible happens to have red letters that’s not the problem, that’s somebody who wanted to shade them, the problem is if you think those red letters have more weight and are more inspired than the black letters. They devoted themselves, not just to red letters, but to the apostles’ teaching, because they were the authoritative spokesmen for this Gospel message. They were committed to a standard, to objection truth. Not just to a way of life, but to a historical person and the facts and interpretation about what He did.
Now it’s hard to say what is most important in the life of a church. Be a, I don’t know that I’d want to answer that question if you give the superlative “most important,” but we can say for certain there is nothing more important than this: That we are committed to the teaching of God’s Word. That we gather on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, to sit under what I hope is careful, clear, authoritative, passionate, Gospel-centered, Christ-exalted, biblical teaching.
Do not take that for granted. This church or any church. Do not knock it down because you wish to see other things lifted up.
Every church in this city, I imagine, thinks it is fulfilling this commitment. But not always. And let us not be too quick to pat ourselves on the back. It’s in the preaching that this is lived out, but it’s also in your lives. Do you test everything against the Word of God? Are we given to pragmatism in how we run our lives or run the church. Have you lost confidence in the Word of God to do the work of God? Have you thought that if only you could receive a direct message from the Spirit then, then you would be happy. But oh, you’re so tired of Bible studies and opening the Word.
Listen, they devoted themselves first, foremost, holding it all together, overarching everything, to the apostles’ teaching.
And Christ Covenant is, and has been, and only ever will be, a strong church, a healthy church in so far as this is our priority. So pray for it, pray for your pastors, pray for your preachers, and study the word. They were committed to the apostles’ teaching.
Second, and the fellowship. The koinonia. Sharing. Participation. We see this in two ways. First is they share life together. So we read day by day they are attending the temple together. They’re breaking bread in their homes, eating together.
Now we will read later that many thousands were being added, and so this Jerusalem church was quickly going to be a big church and they didn’t have, you know, a massive sanctuary to meet in, so it was a church scattered throughout homes, throughout the city, big in number, rich in fellowship. It can be done. It must be done.
Now, we must do our part as teaching, ruling elders in the church. It’s part of what our vision process is about, is to see to it that people do not fall through the cracks, to see to it that there are lots of options for small groups or covenant groups, that there is careful attention by the Shepherds of this church to attending to your souls. People will always fall through the cracks, but I like to say let’s at least make them very tiny cracks that you have to look for, not cracks that are just, you know, beams of joist work that has 3 feet gaps in between them.
Look, if you come here because you thought, you know, maybe the last church I was at was getting in my business, so I’ll go to a bigger church and nobody will know that I’m here. That’s not our goal. We want to know that you’re here. We want you to know that we know that you’re here. We want you to know when we know that you know that you’re not here. We’re going to find ways for a big church to be a small church, for there to be fellowship. We are not interested at all, zero, nothing, no desire to fill up this place with people who are just going to come in just to check off church for the week, zip in, zip out, don’t care to meet anyone, get involved with anyone. That’s, that’s nice for a conference, that’s not a church.
This church was devoted, wasn’t just a preaching station, to fellowship. They were spending time together.
Notice also they’re sharing together, selling their possessions, verse 45, and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as they had need. This is not communism. We see this here, we see it in chapters 4 and 5. Why? Because it’s still private property. They still own the property. It’s not that the government has control of their property and the government is the joint owner of everything. They still have private property. In fact, chapter 5, when Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit, they said “Look, that was your property. You could do with it what you want. You didn’t have to give all the proceeds to us. Why did you lie about it?” So this is not government coercion, this is voluntary, Spirit-prompted generosity.
They shared all things in common with those who believed. You see that, verse 44: All who believed were together and had all things in common. So, whether and in what situation it’s wise and right and good to give to those outside the church, this is explicitly giving to those within the church. There was no government safety net. Some of them, in becoming Christians, would be ostracized by their family, and so it was imperative that they cared for each other.
Many people think when Jesus said “whatever you lose for My sake and the Gospel’s sake you will gain even more in this life,” that what Jesus meant was you might lose your earthly family. They might disown you because you were a Muslim and now you’re a Christian. They might not understand you when you come home from college and you’re some Jesus freak now.
But whatever you lose, you’re going to more than gain with the family of God. Do you see how incumbent upon us it is to have this fellowship, to look out, not just for, not first of all for people who are our earthly relations, but people first of all who are our spiritual relations. There should be nobody who’s sitting at home at Thanksgiving or Christmas, unless they, they want to be and want to have the day off and zap their turkey in the microwave and watch football, that’s fine, but nobody who doesn’t get an invitation to be a part of this family of God.
They share with one another. Certainly this was difficult. We see later in the New Testament they implement rules about widows and who’s working or not and are you a widow really in need so even in the first century this took a lot of wisdom, not just to hand out food and distribute offerings to people who were taking advantage of the system. And yet, let’s not be so careful that we don’t allow the passage to remind us that the test of love for one another is not simply can you be friendly for an hour on Sunday morning, but what burdens will you bear for one another? How are you bearing someone else’s burdens in this church? That is, how are you inconveniencing yourself, your time, your wallet, for the blessing of your brothers and sisters? It’s not so much what you say, though that matters, or how you feel, or what sort of virtue signaling you can do, but rather what do you give up that your brothers and sisters may gain? They devoted themselves to the fellowship.
I said something like this a few weeks ago. Long-term commitment in the church, growth in the church, happiness in the church, is usually dependent on these two things: Worship and fellowship. Can you find good teaching, can you find good friends. Both are necessary.
Before someone said to me, not about this church but just about churches in general, they said “it’s very easy to find friendly people at church; it is much harder to find friends.” That may be especially true in the South. Very nice, warm, friendly, glad to see you, but if we’re not careful, we already have our networks all set and got some family and got some grandparents, we kinda got our thing and have our, our people that we’ve known for years, and I’m very happy to be friendly to you, but not so sure that I really have room or capacity to open this up and welcome someone else. We’ve had the world’s best small group. It’s so amazing, I hope you can never get in. [laughter]
We want both. We want to be a church known for being concerned about doctrine and teaching and preaching. No apologies. Christ Covenant Church, “Oh, that church is really into doctrine and teaching and preaching.” I hope they say that. And I hope they say “and they really like each other, and you should go, and you’re gonna be fed and you are going to meet some amazing people who are going to pray together, cry together, laugh together, share a meal together.” It’s harder to make friends when you don’t know people. So be the one to say “Hi, have I met you before?” and risk the embarrassment of “yes, remember, our kids went to youth group together 20 years ago.” “Oh, I forgot, welcome to this church.” “Oh, I’m a charter member here.” “Oh, well, I’ve only been here… I just got here, so…” We all have permission to do that.
Be open to new relationships. Here’s the test: Are you open to new relationships even if you don’t need any? And you say “I’ve got enough. I’ve got friends, I’ve got family, I’m set.” But not everyone is. So are you open to new relationships even when you don’t need them or think you do?
They were committed to fellowship.
Third, they were committed to the breaking of bread. You see this mentioned in verse 42 and again in verse 46. Commentators are divided on whether this is simply a shared meal or the Lord’s Supper. I think throughout Acts it can mean one or the other or both. Verse 42 seems to be more of a liturgical element in reference to the Lord’s Supper. Verse 46 seems to be a meal in each home, because it’s happening day by day as they attend the temple together. Probably they can use the same phrase because as you have a church meeting in your home, you would celebrate with a meal and naturally that familial meal would give way to a more formal liturgical meal, the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is certainly in view in Acts 20, on the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread, so have both of these things. The fellowship of breaking bread is not only the Lord’s Supper, but it is sometimes the Lord’s Supper, and it is always sometimes simply a meal together.
Some people, and I would tend to agree with them, think that these four items in verse 42 form an initial primitive list of the elements in a Sunday worship service: Teaching, fellowship/koinonia, that word fellowship was often used for the offering. You think why is that? That’s, that’s not the fellowship-y part of the service. Well, it is if you think of what the offering was doing in the early church – it was providing the needs for everyone in the community. This was how they tangibly expressed their fellowship. Then the Lord’s Supper and the prayers. This was a basic outline of what the church was doing on Sunday.
Writing in the second century, Justin Martyr says this: “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits, then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs,” so the pastor, “and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray and as we before said when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought and the president like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability and the people ascend saying ‘amen’ and there is a distribution to each and a participation of that over which thanks is giving, and those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons, and they who are well-to-do and willing give what each thinks fit, and what is collected is deposited with the president,” okay, let’s not do that, bad idea today, but “who gives then to the orphans and the widows and those who through sickness or other cause are in want. Those who are in prison or strangers sojourning among us, and he is able to take care of all who are in need.”
Isn’t it amazing you read something like that 2000 years ago and if, if we’re doing church with simple truth and beauty, it’s amazing how transcultural it is. If you’re doing church and it doesn’t sound anything like this, then maybe we’ve added a few too many things. Thankfully, this is not far from what we do. We gather, we have prayers, Scripture is read, someone stands and exhorts and teaches from that Scripture, there’s an offering taken, and it’s collected to distribute and to help the relief of the poor in our midst. Culturally transferable. Nothing fancy, nothing cutting edge, this is what we want to reproduce. This is the sort of, yes, you go all over the world, you might have different instruments, you might have different meters for your song, people might dress differently, but the basic elements of a worship service ought to look the same and they ought to look something like this, what we see in verse 42.
This breaking of bread, down in verse 46, and verse 42 is Lord’s Supper, verse 46 is, is communal familial living. It signifies the warmth of their relationships, opening their homes, glad and generous hearts. It’s almost certainly the case that most of us have a much bigger place to live than they lived. They’re often welcoming people into their homes. Are we doing the same?
Sometimes we make such a big to do about it. And I know, it’s hard, all of our schedules are crazy and it takes a lot to, to get everything clean, but you know what? What if we allowed ourselves to have paper plates and scrounge for some peanut butter sandwiches and have the house be a mess, and what if the point was not the production of hosting, but rather life lived together? Spontaneously, come over. Be the sort of person that loves to have people come in your home or are you a haunted house but the people are still alive inside? Don’t go to that house, scary church people.
You get the feeling that they liked to be together, often having meals together. We see the importance of the fellowship of the breaking of bread, of the apostles’ teaching, and finally of the prayers.
When we hear prayers, we think of extemporaneous prayers, that’s what we think of. Your prayer life is you sitting down and “dear Lord” and you pray something. When they thought of prayers, it was almost certainly a series of prayers that they read through from the Psalms or perhaps wrote prayers that they said together.
Look at chapter 3, verse 1: “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” There would have been set prayers that the Jews did at the ninth hour. One of the reasons prayer is so hard for us is we try to always just do it extemporaneously – that’s very difficult. Okay? Set your alarm, roll out of bed, talk meaningfully about something for 20 minutes. That’s really hard.
So they had prayers and songs and psalms and things they would have memorized, and you ought to do the same. “Devoting themselves to prayer” does not mean an interminably long popcorn prayer session – it means various liturgical elements that they would have done as they prayed together. Yes, it’s possible for churches to be overly formalized, but the pendulum probably needs to swing back. We equate casual and extemporaneous with more Spirit-led. That would have been unusual for many of them who thought that their most pious prayers were to repeat the prayers that their people had been praying for centuries.
I wonder, if we’re honest and if I’m honest, this is the case for me, that of these four things – teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers – this last one’s the hardest for me. Is it for you? Where, where are we weakest as a church? Where are you weakest in your home? In your small group? In your community?
Prayer is so important to God, and so uniquely glorifying to God, because in prayer, unlike anything else, we express our dependence upon God. When we pray, we admit “I cannot do this on my own. We need you.” Prayer seems inefficient, prayer seems like a waste of time, prayer seems like the one thing we can get by without… When it’s actually the very thing that we need, because we need God.
Isn’t this a picture that we want to reproduce? Isn’t this a picture that we hope is present in this church? Isn’t this what we hope is the picture? We can’t control it – we’ll get to that in just a moment, almost done. Isn’t this the picture we want? Christ Covenant Church… What’s that church about? You notice it didn’t talk a lot about programs; nothing against them. It didn’t talk a lot about their staff members, they didn’t have them, not yet.
Here’s the picture: Those people, they love the Bible, they love teaching, they love each other. Fellowship, they’re sharing with each other. They’re in each other’s homes and they take seriously the sacraments. And boy, do they pray.
That’s simple. The Bible is so good because it’s, in some parts, it’s so simple, which makes it doable and makes it difficult, because we, we can’t manufacture this. And we certainly can’t manufacture the results.
Look at the three results. Those are the four things that we can work hard at, here are the three things we can’t control: Favor, faith, fear.
Verse 47: “Praising God, having favor with all the people.” We don’t have control over this. We can do the best we can to be above reproach. We don’t, we, at some level we can’t control what that city of Matthews thinks about us, how Charlotte views us, what the Supreme Court is going to say about churches. We can pray for the favor of all people, favor with our country, favor with the media, and favor with the law, favorable impression with our neighbors… We pray for it, but we can’t control it.
And then faith, verse 47: “The Lord added to their number day by day.” Notice “the Lord added.” They didn’t do this. They were devoted to teaching, they were devoted to fellowship, they were devoted to the breaking of bread, they were devoted to prayer. The Lord added. You can manufacture conversions. You can’t strong arm evangelistic decisions. We can be faithful, we can sow – the Lord gives the increase.
So we pray for favor, we pray for faith, and finally we pray for fear. That may seem strange, but look at verse 43: “And awe,” footnote, or fear, “came upon every soul.” Now partly it’s because of the signs and wonders that were being done, that’s the second half of verse 43, they were seeing miracles and they had their jaws drop, but it’s not just that because this is a commentary on verse 42. They were standing in awe, not just of the signs and wonders that they saw, but of the church that they saw.
I’ve been around the block enough times to know, unfortunately, that a healthy church is the exception, not the norm. Now no perfect church, but a church basically a pastor and his wife love each other and the staff gets along and the elders and the pastors get along and the people kind of like each other and they at least have enough pastors they can like one of them, and they’re generous with their gifts and there’s missionaries going out and yeah, they get in squabbles and yeah, they have ups and downs, but that is a healthy church. Teaching, prayer, fellowship, breaking of bread.
And when you see that, people may just stand up and notice. We think what people need to see is a show, and Charlotte loves to put on a show. And oftentimes churches have been guilty of that same desire – if we could just [sound effect] just wow ‘em with the show. That’s not what is wowing them. They are jaw drop, standing in fear and awe because God is there.
How else do you explain this church, except there’s a God? How else do you explain what we’re seeing with our own eyes, except there’s a God. A church that takes the Word seriously, a church that cares for its own people, a church that takes communion seriously, around the kitchen table and around the Lord’s table, a church that takes prayer seriously. The result: A people that take God seriously.
People will look and say that’s not normal. Some will be driven to antagonism, and some will be moved to attraction. What we see here is remarkable because it is so ordinary. It’s not new. It doesn’t look relevant. But it is.
We don’t know what God will do, we don’t know the results He will give, but we know that this is the picture that He provides for us, and so the best thing we can do is to demonstrate to the world there is a God and we believe in Him, and we love Him, and we sing about Him with all our might. And this God sent His Son, and He saved us from our sins and He’s transformed our lives and He’s not a God to be trifled with.
And so let us be a church of small, ordinary things, worshiping a big, extraordinary God. Listen to Him, sacrifice for Him, feast on Him, pray to Him, listen to Him and His Word, and let the world stand in awe of Him, not us.
Let’s pray. Our heavenly Father, we pray that You would work in us by Your Spirit these things, these four simple things, to be devoted to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. And we are so bold to ask that in addition You would do what only You can do, and we might have favor with our neighbors, we might see faith growing among us, and we might see in our lives, in the lives of our loved ones, a fear, a godly, holy, pure fear to stand in awe and sing again How Great Thou Art. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.