We are now close to the end of our sermon series: /Back to the Basics: Knowing why you believe what you believe.
/These are the points we are trying to unpack:
//That the church, consisting of all true believers, being Christ's own and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is the Body of Christ, the invisible church; that the church is holy, universal and one in Christ; that the invisible church manifests itself in the visible church, the local congregations consisting all who profess to believe in Christ and are baptized; that as the people of God and a kingdom of priests, the church is called to grow unto the stature of the fullness of Christ and to fulfill her missionary work through the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in worship, ordinances, fellowship, discipline, and services./
// In the priesthood of all believers, and the parity of the ministers and the laity.
Last week we did an overview of ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the church.
We saw that the church universal is the church as God sees it, the invisible body of all believers in Jesus Christ.
This invisible body is manifested in the visible body in any given locality.
This is the local church, as Christians see it.
We were reminded that the church is not some place we went to, but something that we were.
We also looked at several images of what the church is like.
This included the church as a family (God gave us something better than just friends!), a bride, branches, a new priesthood and as God’s temple.
The church is at the heart of God and His purposes.
The church is the gospel made visible and we are to love the church because Christ loved the church and that we must give ourselves to the church because Christ gave Himself for the church.
Today I want to look a little closer at the first church.
Interesting how God providentially organized this message right at the Pentecost Sunday, where the church was born.
Like I said last week, though there was something amazing going on early on in the church, the early church was by no means a perfect church.
We can learn from them, but we must not try to teach their experience, but seek more to experience their teaching.
We will see more of that today as we look at “Being a church that honors God.”
More than anything I want Living Hope to honor God as a church.
And I believe that if we are grounded on certain foundational truths, we will experience all that God has for us.
Initially I titled this sermon, “How to build a dynamic, God-honoring community.”
But the more I studied and prayed, the Lord kept saying, “Stop trying to do, learn to be first.”
So here’s the first thing:
Be Word-focused (v.42)*
Jesus, before He ascended, told the disciples to wait in the Upper Room where the Holy Spirit would come (Acts 1:5).
And they did along with thousands of Jews who came to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.
And God came, as promised, with tongues of fire and through Peter’s sermon, 3,000 people came to Christ (Acts 2:41).
Man, 3,000 people saved through one sermon?
That’s every pastor’s dream, but soon this became the disciples’ nightmare.
How was this community going to grow inwardly and outwardly?
Jesus had told them not to make converts, but disciples (Matt.
From Acts 2:42 to 6:7, Luke gives us the highlights of what happened from over several years.
Acts 1:1 to 2:41 he spends a lot of time to detail the coming of the Spirit and the birth of the church.
However, if he kept going at that rate, we would have books and books of the Acts of the Apostles (which would have been nice), but he moves forward in giving us snapshots of some of the highlights of the early church.
When we don’t understand that this took place over several years, we begin to mistakenly think that every day was like every chapter in Acts.
Not the case.
So though I think the apostles regularly had power encounters, I am sure they had days where they were simply loving the Lord and being faithful without any major fireworks.
Also, there have been days of ordinary struggle that Luke did not feel the need to include.
3,000 people get saved and you think all of them were walking in perfect victory right away?
So what you see here are some of the major highlights, the highlight reel, if you will, of the early Christian community according to Dr. Luke.
Let’s look at how Luke shares some of the best things about this church.
Notice the word /devoted /in Acts 2:42.
This word literally means to “hold fast to, endure in, stand perpetually ready or persevere in.”  In other words, “to occupy oneself diligently with something,” or “to pay persistent attention to.”
There are 10 occurrences in the NT, six of them in Acts (Acts 2:42, 2:46, 6:4, 8:13, 10:7).
Out of ten uses of the verb and one use of the noun in the New Testament, six are connected with prayer and two with the ministry of the Word.
This is not surprising that Acts is full of this word.
These early disciples were fired up and totally committed to the Word and prayer.
They were consumed.
It was continual and it was persistent.
Well, what were they fired up about?
The grammar seems to indicate that they were devoted to two things: /the/ apostle’s teaching and /the/ fellowship.
The last two items, namely, the breaking of bread and prayers seem to elaborate on what /the /fellowship means.
So notice first of all: they were /Word-focused./
Notice that they were devoted “to the apostle’s teaching.”
They were devoted to God’s Word.
Certainly they did not have the New Testament as we have it or even the Gospels, but they taught from Jesus’ earthly ministry and things they learned from the Old Testament in light of Christ and probably what Jesus taught them the 40 days He was with them before He ascended.
Right away, we see what should be important in the life of the church.
Notice that they are not all caught up in experience.
They were Spirit-filled, but that meant they were Word-hungry.
John Stott says, “A Spirit-filled church is a New Testament church, in the sense that it studies and submits to New Testament instruction.
The Spirit of God leads the people of God to submit to the Word of God.”
Remember that the early church did not MAKE God’s Word the authority for them.
They recognized it as authority.
If we do believe God’s Word to be our authority and if it is God-breathed, it must be true then that God’s primary vehicle of communicating and getting to us all that we need for life and godliness will come through His Word.
Right away we see they weren’t seeking some experience, but they wanted to be grounded in truth.
We have all gotten gift cards.
But a gift card is worth nothing unless you make that transaction.
Actually lots of companies make tons of money on unused gift cards.
For example, did you know that Best Buy reported a *$43 million dollar gain* in fiscal year 2006 because of gift cards that were *expired* and weren't used within the two year limit?
And God wants us to cash in with Him so He can get to us His resources.
And thankfully God and His resources never expire.
Again, it’s not the quantity but the quality of God’s Word in your heart.
Let it be a verse or a paragraph or a chapter you are chewing on every day.
Think of a bad day, a wasted day as a day you weren’t able to draw near to God in His Word.
God told the Israelites to go get the manna.
He wasn’t going to magically ingest it into their stomach or lay it on their pillow.
He provided they, they took it and applied it.
As you honor God by putting His Word central, He will get to you all the power you need to live the Christian life and to be the best student or spouse or employee or sibling or friend or servant you are to be.
But if His Word is not our central focus, something else will be central and you plug up the flow of God trying to reach your heart.
And we are going to be a church that honors God, the best place to start is to have its members who are devoted to God’s Word.
We need to be a church devoted to God’s Word, making it the central focus.
Let’s also be devoted to downloading and distributing God’s Word as we serve here.
Sometimes people ask me how my Sunday sermon went.
I actually don’t know how to answer that.
Truly only eternity will reveal “how it went.”
But just remember that the only thing that matters is what happens with the Word between your lips and your heart to the hearts of the people you are ministering to!
Be inter-connected (v.42b)*
Notice that fellowship is mentioned next.
This word means “association, communion…close relationship.”
Pastor Stephen Cole remarks, “We cannot be devoted to the Head, who is Christ, and at the same time cut ourselves off from the body, His church.
That would be like a young man saying to his date, ‘I like your face, but your body is gross!’
That would be his last date with her!” Being connected to the Head means being connected with the body.
Pastor James Macdonald defines “fellowship” as a “relationship between individuals through active participation in a common mission.”
It’s more than togetherness or warm feelings when you have coffee together.
As Pastor Tony Evans says, “Authentic biblical fellowship means the mutual sharing of the life of Christ between His family members.”