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Devoted To One Another

Updated: Mar 31



The simplyRevised Podcast



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This past week I spent a few moments speaking with a gentleman who has served as an elder in his church for over 40 years. We talked about the joys and a few struggles that come with serving as an elder. He also told me about this current phase of his life and how he hoped to continue serving the church and mentoring as much as possible. We talked about COVID and a recent article he had read about the experience of many congregations. Many, it seems, have struggled with attendance after COVID. Some churches have closed because of a lack of attendance. He mentioned where he serves, they have also seen a significant reduction in attendance.


I also told him about Southbelt. Although we are quite a bit smaller, I was pleased we did not lose attendance through COVID. Everyone was eager to return to worship in person as soon as possible. It was a challenging time for everyone, and we were all trying to find ways to remain connected. Southbelt, though did reasonably well.


Looking at our larger culture, what has happened? Many people are asking this question. They are trying to understand and find answers as to why seemingly so many Christians decided being together was just not that important. It's a question I have asked, and Bren and I have discussed on several occasions. As congregations, perhaps through our teaching, have we contributed to a lack of connection or discipleship? Has technology and the availability of online streaming contributed? Is our culture as a whole just less connected with families and our communities? It's a question that has many factors. There will not be just one answer, but many things, I suspect, have contributed.


In our lesson today, I would like to consider a few points from Acts 2 as we consider connection. Noticing the lifestyle of some of the first followers of Jesus, what can we learn from them?


Background


The book of Acts in our New Testament is somewhat unique. Written by the Gospel author Luke, Acts shares the history of the early church movement, led by the Holy Spirit, as the message of Christ launches out from Jerusalem. The church becomes an international, multiethnic movement that we follow through Acts.


Acts begins as part 2 of the Gospel of Luke, picking up the movement of Jesus where the Gospel of Luke ends. We are told that Jesus spends 40 days with His disciples, teaching them about the kingdom of God.


Acts 1:1–5

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."


The Gospel of Luke is about what Jesus began to do. Acts are about what Jesus and the Spirit continue to do.


The Promised Holy Spirit


Jesus gives this instruction to the disciples. They are to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the gift promised by the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, we are told of the fulfillment of this promise.


Acts 2:1–6

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken."


Peter and the other disciples begin sharing Jesus and the Gospel in Jerusalem. Luke focuses our attention on the words of Peter and his address to the crowds. Many recognize this moment as the launch of the early church. As people are convicted, they ask Peter, "what shall we do?"


Acts 2:38–39

"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."


Luke tells us that about 3,000 were added to their number on this day. The promised Holy Spirit is given, and the early church movement is launched.


The Believers


Luke shares the character and fabric of the early church. Although we live in a different culture, can we learn something from them about the character and fabric that should be part of our lives together?


Acts 2:42–47

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”


Devoted To The Apostles' Teaching


First, they continued in the apostles' teaching. They gave themselves continually to the apostles' instruction. As a community, they learned and were formed by the Scriptures. God has revealed His wisdom through His word. Within the fabric of the Scriptures, God's story is revealed. It is the story and fabric that is to make up our lives today. Just as with these early Christians, we also enter into the story of God, and it is His story that should form our lives. Part of the character of the church should be a devotion to Scripture as it forms the fabric of His church.

Fellowship


They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship. The early church was devoted to one another. The word "fellowship" in Greek means partnership or participation. If we notice the sentence structure, it helps us understand fellowship here as to "the breaking of bread." This phrase is used for the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-39) and meals together (Acts 2:46). We also see sharing and generosity develop.


Acts 2:44–45

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need."


Although I understand we live in a different culture and may not be able to participate with one another as they did, Luke shares the importance of partnership and devotion to each other the church shared.


Prayer


The early church devoted themselves to prayer. Prayer realizes our dependence upon God. Prayer places our hope in the Lord, and prayer allows us to participate in the purposes of God.


In Acts 4, Peter and John are seized and placed in Jail for proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. The next day, as Peter and John are brought before the religious leaders in Jerusalem, they are released and commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). Peter and John return to the church and report on all that had happened. When the church heard their report and the instruction not to teach or speak in the name of Jesus, the church raised their voices together in prayer (Acts 4:24).


Acts 4:31

"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly."


Prayer realizes our dependence, places our hope in, and allows us to participate in the purposes of the Lord.


Bridging


In our culture today, building connections is something we need to be intentional about. Since COVID, many congregations have experienced a decline in attendance. I don't know that this is all due to COVID; there seems to be a more significant challenge. Are we, as a church, building authentic communities centered on Christ?


The early church realized the importance of one another as they formed the fabric of their lives around Christ. They devoted themselves to understanding the Scripture. Christianity was more than just an addition to their already busy lives. The story of God became their story. Generosity and sharing became characteristics of a connected community as they realized their dependence on the Lord.


The early church was deeply committed and persistent in pursuing spiritual growth, community, and connection with the Lord. These are valuable lessons for our community today. What can I do to build connections among the community of Christ so that Christ and His church become the fabric of my life?


notes:

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

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