This Sunday: Resolutions (Acts 2:41-47)


Posted Friday, December 31, 2010 at 6:04 PM

“Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed by the apostles.” (Acts 2:43)

“And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b)

This past week we've looked at the early Christians as described in Acts 2:41-47 and used that description as the inspiration for our spiritual resolutions for this coming year. We should also remember why we desire to set these types of resolutions: that God may be glorified. If you look in verses 43 and 47, we see that among the early Christians God performed things that only He can take credit for: wonders, signs, and salvation. May our motivation to be more like these early Christians also be that God may be glorified and work wonders, signs and salvation in our midst.

This Sunday, we'll review our inspirations from the early Christians and spend the time committing our resolutions to God in prayer. Please read the previous 6 posts before you come.

Hope to see you there...

Acts 2:41-47 - Resolutions (Part 6)


Posted at 8:59 AM

“Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had need.”
(Acts 2:44-45)

To this point, we've talked about the message that the early Christians received, the activities to which they devoted themselves, and the attitude of humility and fear that permeated their lives. In these verses, we see a combination of devotion to the fellowship and a proper importance placed upon their possessions. The early Christians believed and acted as though the physical needs of the entire group were more important than the accumulation of possessions and property for oneself. They were good stewards, they understood that everything that they had was given to them by God and that they did not “own” it.

So what does this passage mean for us? Well, thankfully we are in a group where everyone's basic needs are being met: food, shelter, clothes, and other essentials. As far as I can tell, God has blessed our group to where a lot of the things we feel we “need”, we really just want. So the immediate lesson for us from this passage is that if someone in our group ever has a need that's going unmet, God has placed that responsibility on us first. We must place the proper importance on one another's well-being so that none of is hindered from growing spiritually.

Is that all we are to take from this passage? I don't think so. First, as was mentioned yesterday, you have to put the proper importance on your possessions; your possessions are less important than God and other people. Second, we must learn to steward our possessions and not “own” them. This is a very contrary idea to the way our culture acts, but we must view our things as though they belong to God and are to be used for His glory. This includes our income, which plays itself out first by tithing. There is no better way that we show that what we have is God's than by giving a percentage of our regular income as a tithe. Tithing is a reminder that everything that we have is God's. Another way we can be good stewards of our possessions is to manage them in a way that we can give to those who need it. A general approach to this is to understand how much of something we actually need or use, so that it is available to give away when the opportunity presents itself (e.g. giving blankets for the homeless, canned goods for the food pantry, money to an organization that is doing God's work in a place where we can't, etc.). There are numerous ways to approach and use your possessions as though they were God's, and I can't attempt to list them (or pretend that I could list them), let the Holy Spirit guide you in these decisions.

So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:
  1. Pray for those in our life group. Be prepared to meet our needs, if they arise.
  2. Tithe with the understanding that all you have is God's.
  3. Become a better steward of what you have:
    • Learn to manage your possessions with the understanding that God “owns” it.
    • Look for opportunities to use your possessions and income to honor God.

Acts 2:41-47 - Resolutions (Part 5)


Posted Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 8:28 AM

“Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.” (Acts 2:43)
“They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:46b-47a)

The past few days' commentaries have taken a look at the activities (study, fellowship, remembering Jesus, and prayer) that the early Christians were described as being devoted to, but there was no mention how they approached these activities or with what attitude. In verse 43, we read that “fear” came over these early Christians, the first description of any emotion or attitude in this verbal picture of them. Additionally, at the end of verse 46, we are told that the attitude in which they ate their food was “gladness” and “simplicity of heart”. The early Christians' attitudes also seemed to evoke praise toward God and likeability from men, a combination that may seem to be in opposition.

First, what is this emotion or attitude of fear? In context, the fear that the early Christians felt seems to come out of their devotional activities: study, fellowship, remembering Jesus, and prayer. All of these activities teach us about God, and by them He draws us into closer intimacy with Himself. It would seem that by understanding God more, we begin to fear Him. What is fear, then? It is the emotion or attitude that we gain out of a healthy understanding and genuine respect for who God is. It does not mean we are scared of Him, but we know that we should be; we're not completely comforted by our understanding of Him either, but a substantial amount of comfort is found in Him. C.S. Lewis probably sums this thought up best in his book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe...but he is good. He's the king I tell you.” It's a great paradox that we should be comforted by and fearful of God. One last word, we do not gain this fear on our own, but as we continue in our devotional activities the Holy Spirit builds this fear in us through the things we learn.

Second, what does it mean to have gladness and simplicity of heart? This seems to be a from of humility that comes from a proper fear of the God; an appropriate importance is placed on everything. When we eat our food, we understand that it is by God's provision that we have something to eat, so we are glad. This why many of us say a prayer at meals. Additionally, when we think about God, our heart is provoked to praise Him because we know He is the most important. And, when we interact with people, we realize that they are important to God, and therefore are important to us, and that attitude is conveyed to them. We should use caution with humility because it can be imitated, but we are not naturally humble and require the strength of the Holy Spirit and a proper fear of God to maintain humility.

So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:
  1. Continue in your devotional activities striving to understand more about God.
  2. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you a proper fear of God.
  3. Apply a proper importance to everything.
    • God is the most important.
    • People are important to God, so they are important to us.
    • Everything we have is from God and given to us to steward.

Acts 2:41-47 - Resolutions (Part 4)


Posted Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 7:15 AM

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

These early Christians were “devoted” to studying scripture (apostles' teaching), to one another (fellowship), and to sharing Jesus with one another (breaking of bread). The last activity listed in Acts 2:42 to which these Christians devoted themselves is prayer. If all these things were worthy of the early Christians devotion, and the Holy Spirit saw it fit for the author of Acts to write this down, then we have the duty to examine what devotion to these activities means.

So, what does it mean to be devoted to prayer? First, what is prayer? The Westminster Shorter Catechism, a document written to help lay persons understand matters of doctrine and belief, defines prayer like this: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” To state it more simply, prayer is a privilege given to us by Jesus where we thank, confess to, and ask from God. So back to the original question, how do we devote ourselves to prayer? This is a serious question, because in other places in scripture we are commanded to be devoted to prayer (1 Thes. 5:17; Luke 18:1). If we're honest when it comes to prayer, as it may be with a lot things, we just need to be more intentional. With the mercy and grace that God has given us, how can we not be more intentional to pray? Intentional to pray privately and intentional to pray with others.

So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:

  1. Establish and practice the discipline of prayer: letting God know your desires, confess your sins, and thank Him for His mercy.
  2. Schedule a regular prayer time(s). This time may be for you or you may choose to make it a family time.
  3. Be intentional to pray with other Christians when you get together.

Acts 2:41-47 - Resolutions (Part 3)


Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 7:39 AM

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread...” (Acts 2:42a)

Yesterday, we started a list of activities from the early Christians describing how they walked. These activities are some things God uses to make us more like Jesus, a process we called sanctification. The list of activities in which the early Christians participated begins with Acts 2:42. It says that they were “devoted” to these activities. The first item in the list was the apostles' teaching, which we equated to study of the Bible, but the list of devotional activities continues: fellowship and the breaking of bread.

The word “devoted”, as we defined yesterday, implies a continuing, serious and reverent commitment. So what does it mean to be devoted to fellowship? First of all, if you were to check this verse against other translations of the Bible, many translate this as “the fellowship” and not just “fellowship”. An important distinction, because as Christians we are not devoted to the act of getting together and sharing life, but as Christians we are devoted to each other and out of that devotion comes the motivation to share life. In addition, it's our love and common bond of Jesus that draws us closer to each other, and because of the bond we have in Jesus we devote ourselves to encourage, share with, and help one another as we seek to know Him more.

We are also to be devoted to the breaking of bread. This is a direct reference to communion or the Lord's supper, and we should not neglect this sacrament and approach the Lord's supper with devotion. If you take a step back from the sacrament of the Lord's supper, you see that this is really a time of fellowship where we remember and share in the life of Jesus together. If we are to be devoted to one another, sharing life along the way, then a part of that fellowship should be sharing and remembering what Jesus has done for us.

So how are we to be devoted to the fellowship? Practically, you have to be around Christians to fellowship in the same manner as these early Christians did. For some, that may mean more regular attendance of church and life group, not that it's the goal; it's just a starting point. For others of us, it means putting more value on the Christians that God has put around us, and seeking to be available to sharing life and encouraging them on their walk with Jesus. Lastly, for all of us, whomever we have fellowship with, we should always be remembering and sharing Jesus with each other, and not sharing Him out of shallowness but rooted in Scripture. As we get together in fellowship, we should ask questions about what God is teaching us through our devotional times and sharing accordingly. Along this line—let's be honest—if we are uncomfortable sharing Jesus with fellow Christians, how will we ever be able to share with non-Christians?

So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:
  1. If you don't already, make yourself available for fellowship.
    • Maybe that means putting a more regular emphasis on church and life group attendance so that you are available for fellowship.
    • Maybe that means attending more church and life group gatherings so that you are available for fellowship. (Honestly, there's not much time for fellowship on Sunday mornings.)
    • Maybe that means making an effort to spend time with others outside of organized activities. (This is where most fellowship should happen.)
  2. Put a new or renewed emphasis on sharing Jesus with each other. Encourage each other to know Jesus more and share what He's teaching us and what He's doing in our lives.

Acts 2:41-47 - Resolutions (Part 2)


Posted Monday, December 27, 2010 at 9:47 AM

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching...” (Acts 2:42a)

In Acts 2:41, we read how 3,000 people heard the message of Jesus that Peter preached, received the message, and were baptized. It's at that point that we traditionally begin to call someone a Christian, but we also know that Bible tells us that there is a way in which a Christian should walk, or, in other words, there are activities that a Christian participates in that incrementally change the heart, mind and soul to be more like Jesus. This process is called sanctification and it is expected that all Christians participate in this process. Unlike salvation, which is a work that God (Father, Son, Spirit) does alone, sanctification is God's work in us as we discover life in Him. Acts 2:42 begins the description of these activities that the early church participated in, and they were “devoted” to them.

“Devoted” is a strong word. It implies a continuing, serious and reverent commitment to these activities, and the first item in the list that these early Christians were devoted to is the apostles' teaching. So what were they teaching? Thankfully, we not only have the basis of what they were teaching (Old Testament), but we also have a number of historical accounts and letters they wrote to encourage others in their walks with Jesus (New Testament). The teaching that these early Christians devoted themselves to is readily available to us in the form of the Bible to devote ourselves to, no guess work involved.

So what does it mean for us to “devote” ourselves to the apostles' teaching? First, we can establish a regularly scheduled time where we read the Bible in such a way—seriously, reverently, devotionally-- that there is something to be learned from it. This time of devotional reading should also be mapped out (i.e. reading through a particular book of the Bible) so that when you read a passage of Scripture, it has a context. Having a devotional reading time and knowing how to approach this time is one of the most important disciplines you can have as a Christian.

There are many other ways that we can devote ourselves to Biblical teaching, especially with the technology and resources available to us today: your pastor's sermons, books, podcasts, vodcasts, Bible Studies, etc. A word of warning, you should be rooted in the truths of the Bible (or ask someone who is) before pursuing and devoting yourself to any teaching or teacher. Devotional reading is going to be your safest option.
So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:
  1. If you have accepted the message of Jesus, you should learn the discipline of devotional reading. If you haven't learned the discipline of devotional reading, or are even the least bit uncertain in what you know, here are a couple of options:
    • “Thrive” - A Sunday night study given by Pastor Stephen that begins January 16, 2011. In the study, he'll teach you why devotional reading is important and how to do it. Maybe a group of us can go.
    • If you are time limited and can't make it to “Thrive”, the Village Church in Flower Mound has a recording and study guide online of a similar study that they do entitled, “How to Study the Bible”.
  2. If you've had a devotional reading time in the past but don't do it anymore, resolve to pick up your devotional time. Maybe you need to be reminded of its importance by attending the “Thrive” study.
  3. If you have a devotional reading time but are just going through the motions, commit to approach it more seriously and reverently.
  4. If you have a quality, regular devotional reading time, maybe it's time to look for an additional resource (e.g. Bible study, podcast, book, etc.) to encourage or challenge you in addition to your devotional time.

Acts 2:41-47 - Resolutions (Part 1)


Posted Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 7:55 AM

“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.” (Acts 2:41)

Note: You may want to pull out your Bible and turn to Acts 2.

The apostles and friends had been praying continuously since Jesus' ascension to heaven, waiting obediently for the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit arrives on the Day of Pentecost, causing a scene like any of us has ever seen, but the people in Jerusalem had definitely never seen this before. So, with people standing around trying to make sense out what they are seeing, Peter steps up and delivers his first sermon to describe to the thousands that were there what is happening. He explains how the Holy Spirit was prophesied about in the Old Testament, how Jesus was prophesied about, and how the Holy Spirit is a gift made available to those who repent (turn away) from their sins and accept Jesus because of Jesus' life with us. And following this message, the Holy Spirit moved in 3,000 people's hearts to accept the message of Jesus.

So what are we to take from this? Let me start with the reflections that I've had about Christmas this year: God HATES sin. Seriously, that was the summary of my Christmas devotions this year. I mean we all know this much, a good portion of the Old Testament is God giving parameters to what sin is and how He reacts toward sin. God hates sin so much that He sent Jesus, and Jesus clarified parts of the Law by saying things like, “You've heard it said, do not commit (murder, adultery, etc.), but I say to you that if you've thought about it, then you're guilty of sin.” But, thankfully, as Peter also points out in his sermon, God also sent Jesus that our sins may be forgiven for all times and that we may live in communication and community with God. And the 3,000 people who accepted Peter's message were each baptized as their first act of obedience and, in effect, became the earliest church.

There is another thing that we can infer from this one verse. The passage says that the 3,000 were added to “them”, who's “them”? If you go all the way back before Peter started his sermon (Acts 2:14), you'll find the answer: “the Eleven” or the apostles. If you look at the end of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), you'll find that Jesus tasked the apostles with sharing this message with the whole world, starting in Jerusalem. And as you go on to read the rest of Acts, you see that the mission of spreading the gospel message leads them throughout much of the Roman empire. Then, the book of Acts ends with no resolution, as if to say that the “acts of the apostles” and the mission are still ongoing. So when the 3,000 were added to the apostles, they were not just added for them to be saved and made right with God; they were added to the apostles so that they might join in the mission of sharing the gospel message with the whole world. And like an invitation, as the book of Acts ends not having complete resolution, those that have accepted the message of Jesus are to join the apostles' mission of being sent to share this message to the whole world. Like the apostles were sent, so were the first 3,000 sent, and so is everyone who has accepted Jesus' message since then is sent...until Jesus' resolves the book of Acts.
So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:
  1. If you've never truly accepted this message, then please do accept it. And if you find it hard to accept, plead with the Holy Spirit to accept the message of Jesus the way the 3,000 people did here.
  2. If you have accepted the message of Jesus but have not been baptized, then you need to be baptized. This is your first act of obedience in the new year.
  3. If you have accepted the message of Jesus and have been baptized, then know that the path you walk is not about you but Jesus, and you are called to share the the message of Jesus as Peter and the other apostles did. For the new year, pray that the Holy Spirit helps remove whatever hinders you from sharing the message of Jesus and work to share the good news.

More to come tomorrow...

No Life Group this Sunday


Posted Saturday, December 25, 2010 at 7:42 AM

Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

This Sunday: No Life Group


Posted at 2:15 AM

There will be no Life Group the mornings of Sunday, December 19 and 26.

This Sunday: A Christmas Quiz


Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:12 AM

Hey guys and gals, let's have a little bit of time to just enjoy each others company and celebrate the season. Bring your favorite breakfast item to share, and we'll enjoy the food and play a little quiz game.

Hope to see you all there...

This Sunday: Missions Sunday


Posted Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 10:03 AM

Join us this Sunday as we will have a visitor from the International Mission Board (IMB) talking to us about her work in East Africa. We will get an overview of the mission environment and needs in the area and have time to ask questions about anything you may be curious about.

Also, this will be a special emphasis week at NFWBC for international missions. There will be a missionary presenting the sermon during both worship services and we will having the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, a special offering for international missions. Please pray as to how you will give to this offering above your normal tithes.

Hope to see you there...