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Tag: surrender

Contrasting Characters in the Early Church

This morning we are continuing our look at the book of Acts – specifically we will be looking at the last few verses of chapter 4 and the first few verses of chapter 5. Last week Mike took us through the bulk of Acts 4 as Peter & John boldly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ as they stood on trial before the temple authorities. They had earlier been arrested after healing a lame man and preaching to the crowds that Jesus was the Messiah who had been raised from the dead.

Well, the religious authorities at the temple didn’t appreciate that kind of preaching, and so, upon being released from prison, Peter & John were strongly warned to never to preach again in the name of Jesus – but of course, the apostles stated quite emphatically that they could never stop speaking about what they had seen and heard. In fact, as soon as they were released, they met together with the rest of the church to pray for even more boldness in sharing the Gospel.

And of course, God was quite happy to answer their prayers. In fact, the last verse of that passage says this:

31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

Undeterred by the threats of the authorities and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples faithfully continued to carry out the mission they had been given by Jesus Himself – to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.

And of course, as they did that, the church grew by leaps and bounds. Back in verse 4, Luke gives us a numbers update and he says….

“…the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000.” Luke 4:4

5000 men had put their faith in Jesus in just a short time – in probably just a matter of days or weeks. And that’s just the men. There were undoubtedly women and children as well, so the total number of those in the church could have been around 10,000 or more by now. What a church! And even more amazing is how Luke describes this enormous group of people… Look at what he says in verse 32:

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind.

Acts 4:32a

Now that is an amazing statement! All the believers – some 5 to 10,000 of them – were all united in heart and mind. That’s almost hard to believe!

Most of us know from experience how hard it is to get people on the same page – whether you’re trying to do something as a team at work or as group of kids for a class project or even just trying to decide what movie to watch as a family – it is a rare thing that people are united in heart and mind!

But that’s exactly what God intends for his church. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus prayed for when He prayed for his disciples back at the last supper. If you remember from John chapter 17, Jesus said:

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Fulfilling Our Purpose

For those of you who missed last week’s message (and for those of you who have forgotten), last week we introduced a series of messages on the church. And to start it off, we looked at the two most basic fundamental questions you can ask about the church.

#1. What is the church?

The church, we were reminded, is people. Church is not a building, it is not a charitable organization, it is people who belong to the kingdom of God – followers of Jesus Christ.

#2. What is the purpose of the church?

And we discovered that our purpose, as individuals and together as Christ’s church, is simply to love God and be loved by Him.

Now the question I want to answer today is “How do we do that?” How do we love God and be loved by Him? So as I started to prepare for today’s message I began to come up with a list of different things we should do if we want to really love God.

  • Read the Bible.
  • Study the Bible.
  • Memorize the Bible.
  • Pray.
  • Love my neighbor.
  • Tell others about Jesus.

Before I was finished, I realize that the list I had looked very much like a Christians New Year’s Resolutions. Have you ever done that? Maybe not at just New Years, but after listening to a convicting speaker or reading a great Christian book, or while attending a Christian conference? You make a firm resolution – I’m going to read my Bible more. Or I’m going to spend more time in prayer. Or I’m going to be more bold in sharing Jesus with my friends.

I’ve sure done that a lot, I imagine you may have as well. But what happens most of the time? You get up at 6:00 am to read our Bibles on Monday. Then again at 6:00 am on Tuesday. You’re a little tired on Wednesday, so you bump it back to 6:30 am. On Thursday you manage to squeak it in at 6:45 am. Friday you hit snooze too many times and are running late, so you decide you’ll read your Bible before you go to bed that night. You forget all about it over the weekend, and by Monday, you’ve given up. Then it’s back to your regular routine until the next time you feel convicted.

After we’ve been through that cycle about 10 times we begin to think that we’re a pretty terrible Christian. Why can’t I read my Bible more – or why don’t I get more out of it when I do? Why can’t I memorize verses – I know I should, but I can never stick to it. Why can’t I be more bold in sharing Christ with others? Even when opportunity comes up, I chicken out. How can I really love God, if I can’t do all these things I know I should be doing?

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