The Devoted

The Devoted

The Early Church is a devoted Church.

Let me first say thank you for being here today. I know it certainly is a holiday and it’s a little windy. It’s a little cold.  But you know what?  God is with us, and God is moving in this place. And the good news is you have a pastor who understands it’s a little cold, understands it’s a little windy, and he’s not long winded.   Someone jokingly said, shortly after the search committee called me, the fact you’re done in 25-30 minutes is why we liked you.  But as we’re here, the enemy has attacked us through some wind, through some cold weather, through a guitar being out of tune, but I want to say this, the Word of God is still the star of the show.  And the Word of God is going to be read, and it’s going to be proclaimed this morning.  I believe that the more attacks that we face and you know, wind and things like that, the greater power we have in the message of the Word this morning.  It’s certainly nothing that I have to say. It’s all what the Bible has to say.  And so I am certainly grateful that you are here. I’m grateful that you are devoted enough to be here this morning, and that’s what I want to talk to us about today.  The idea of devotion.

I want to ask you this question, what are you devoted to?  What are the things in your life that you give a lot of time and attention to? And then I would ask why are you devoted to those things? And then what is the results of your devotion to those things?

This week I was reading about a young lady named I don’t know how young she is now, but her name is Sanya Richardson-Ross.  If you keep up with the Olympics or with running, you may know her name.  In 2008 in the Beijing Olympics, she competed in the 400 meter dash.  She started out as fast as you could be out of the gate and she was in the lead, but she was coming down the homestretch and she locked up and she finished third in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the 400 meter dash. Well, she was motivated and dedicated to make sure that the next time she got the gold medal.  She trained the right way. She was devoted to training the right way. She was devoted to eating the right thing.  She was devoted to resting the right way, and her devotion paid off in a mighty way because four years later, she ran the 400 and 49.55 seconds, finishing first place setting new records and she was successful.

You see, for four years she committed her life to being devoted to the things that she needed to do so she could have the results that she wanted.  Now everybody here today, you are devoted to something, or you’re devoted to many things. We’re devoted to our families and the way we serve and treat our family shows our devotion to our families.  We’re devoted to eating great food sometimes. Yeah, I’m always looking for good restaurants and I’m always on the internet.  This coming week in this over the weekend, Jennifer and I have been devoted to moving into a house and we actually got to sleep there last night, so that was pretty exciting.  So we’re all devoted to all kinds of things in life, and when we open up the Book of Acts, and that’s where we’ll be today in Acts chapter 2, we see the church.  The very first church.  The early church.  The church in Jerusalem.  We see that they are a devoted gathering of people.  Their motivation for their devotion comes from the last words of Jesus where He says, “go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey.”  That’s the motivation of the church.  They want to fulfill the mission by being devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You know, they’ve been with Jesus a really long time and we talked about this a little bit on Wednesday night and our devotional, but you know Jesus was with them. Jesus was in charge, and Jesus was guiding them for three years. And then He left.  He left.  This group of disciples, and before Pentecost there was about 120 of them, this group of disciples had to pick up the mantle. They had to pick up the same devotion that Jesus modeled for them, and they had to carry the message not just to their neighborhood, not just to their city, but to the ends of the earth.  And Jesus was with them and empowering them through the Holy Spirit. And that’s kind of the context of our passage today is we’re coming right out of the events of Pentecost. We’re coming right out of the events of Peter standing up in Jerusalem and preaching that powerful message starting in the Old Testament and pointing all the way to Jesus.  And 3,000 people in the city are saved. 3,000 people become devoted disciples, and so as that text continues and as we move into the verses for verse 42 and following we read at how the church was a devoted church.  My goal for us today, this is for you and me, my goal is that we would have the same motivation and that we would have the same devotion because we need to be devoted disciples.  Devoted disciples of Jesus committed to making disciples for Jesus all for the glory of God.

So here’s what we read in acts Chapter 2, verse 42 is where we’ll start.  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.  Now all the believers were together and held all things in common.  They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

Let’s pray together.  Father, we thank You for the Word of God. We pray that it would be a light for our feet and the lamp into our path.  Father, we pray today that what we have not You would give us, what we are not, You would make us, what we know not, You would teach us.  In Jesus’ Name Amen and Amen.

What we see in this passage is that the early church is devoted to four things, four separate things.  The first one is the disciples are devoted to the teaching of God’s Word. They were devoted to sitting under the teaching of the Apostles and the leadership of the church.  You may be thinking, what in the world were they teaching?  You may know this or you may not. The New Testament didn’t exist at this time. In fact, Luke writing one of the books now that’s going to be the New Testament.  So what in the world were they teaching? Well, you can look back at Pentecost and you can look back and look at some of Paul’s and what you see is that they’re teaching Old Testament Scripture. They’re opening up those Old Testament passages, and they’re pointing people to Jesus. They’re saying they’re reading it, and they’re saying this is how Jesus fulfills this teaching.

But remember, it’s also the apostles. These are also men and women who are men who were with Jesus during his earthly ministry, so of course they’re telling people about Jesus.  They’re saying, hey, this is what happened on this day. This is what happened in this situation. This is what Jesus said. The Great Commission says, teach them all that I have commanded.  So the disciples are preaching and teaching everything that Jesus said and did and so you know the powerful thing is, they’re teaching God’s Word.

John tells us that you know that Jesus is the kind of the embodiment of the Word of God.  The Word was with God. The Word is God, and so when they’re talking about Jesus, they’re talking about God’s Word.  That’s what they’re teaching and the people are soaking it in. I mean, they love hearing about the Word of God.  They love learning about those powerful truths and I just want to say this.  All great awakenings throughout history have started or certainly been empowered by good solid preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  Not of man opinions, but of God’s Word. We see this in Acts Chapter 2 where 3,000 are saved because Peter preaches the Word.  We see this in Nehemiah 8 where Nehemiah and the people are preaching the Word of God and the people are begging to hear it over.

As a pastor, it would make me happy for people to show up and beg for me to preach.  Because we like to preach as long as we’re preaching God’s Word.  They have a hunger to hear it.  They have a desire to know those deep truths that are found in God’s Word.  The great awakenings. Pastors like John Edwards and George Whitfield, and John Wesley and Charles Wesley. They were devoted to preaching God’s Word.  I believe it was John could have been Charles, I can’t remember, but I think John Wesley once preached a 3-hour sermon.  How many would stay for that?   So that’s why I said at the beginning you have a short-winded preacher compared to Wesley. Edwards was a little shorter in his preaching, but these men would preach for hours, sometimes days and the result of preaching God’s Word would be hundreds, if not thousands of people were being saved because the Word of God is sufficient for salvation, and that’s what they’re devoted to.

You know we live in a culture and we live in a time where people are searching for truth, right?  You’ve all heard the phrase this is my truth. This works for me, so it’s my truth. What works for you is your truth.  But I just want you to hear this very clearly. There is only one truth in all of eternity, and it’s found in God’s Word.  I mean, that’s it, and it is sufficient.  The Word of God is sufficient for us, to teach us, to change us and to save us. Now I know there are things in that Book we may have a hard time with.  There’s a lot in that Book that the world has a hard time with. Just because we struggle with it doesn’t make it any less true. If the Bible says it’s a sin, it’s a sin.  It doesn’t really matter what we think.  And God knows what is right and what is wrong because He created the universe.  And it is so important that we be devoted to gathering together on Sunday mornings. This is what we do in worship.  We worship together. We pray together and then we read and hear God’s Word proclaimed together. It’s so vitally important we do that. It’s so vitally important that we hear the instructions from God’s Word.  but it’s also important in your life.

So I would ask you how much time do you spend in God’s Word outside of Sundays?  How much time are you devoting to personal Bible study? How much time are you devoting to the reading and the memorization of Scripture?  I’ve struggled with this, a lot of people have struggled with this, but you know, we have in us as Christians to wake up early and read and pray.  Maybe you’re not like this, but I’m weak.  When that alarm clock goes off, snooze, snooze. And before you know it, you don’t have time.  I would love for Christians, myself first and foremost, to be so passionate and have such a deep desire to read God’s Word, that I stop hitting the snooze button in the mornings.  That I wake up open my Bibles pray and spend time with God.  If you don’t do it in the mornings, do it at lunch. Do it at night.  But have a desire and be devoted to the preaching of God’s Word.

The next thing we see is they’re devoted to fellowship. Now I know these are Southern Baptists.  ‘Cause they enjoyed eating. Read it.  With joyous hearts, they were eating. They were fellowshipping.  I mean, you know there’s a lot of debate on when Baptist developed, but I think it’s pretty clear right here.  They’re Southern Baptist.  They like to eat.  They had all things in common. They ate together. I love this word. The word fellowship comes from a Greek word, Koinōnia. It means communion or close relationship.  It is a word used in secular Greek that meant the sharing of goods, but the meaning of the Bible, the deeper spiritual meaning is it’s a group of people with a common bond and a common purpose. Does that sound like the church?  Common bond common purpose?  They’re bonded together by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the purpose of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now let’s be clear, we do like to eat and we like to fellowship.  We like to hang out. The men do some great cooking when they cook and breakfast is always good on Sunday mornings and it’s good fellowship.  But what makes fellowship Biblical fellowship is when we turn our attention to Jesus.  We can hang out and watch the ball game, and that’s good. We can hang out and go out to eat, and that’s good.  But what makes it biblical fellowship is when we are focused on the Lord.  When we gather together to hang out and the fellowship, and then we pray together.  We read God’s Word together.  And we just have this moment of focusing on Jesus. That’s Biblical fellowship.  It’s good to have Biblical fellowship.  It is good to gather together to do this.

Now what you see is two ways that this is happening. It’s happening in a big way and it’s happening in a small way.  The big way is they’re gathering together at the temple. That’s kind of like the Sunday morning worship service. Now it’s hard for me to know how many people are really in these large gatherings. Assuming that all 3,000 people stayed in Jerusalem, which they didn’t, and we know they went.  But if all 3,000 stayed, then all 3,000 are not being able to gather at the temple.  It’s just not big enough, but we do know at some point they’re having large gatherings. The church is gathering.  They’re getting instructions from the preachers. You know the purpose of the Sunday morning worship is to worship, to pray and to get instructions from the Word of God.

But the fellowship is small. They’re going house to house. Don’t miss that smallness of the church.  I heard it said this and I think it’s right on the church in Jerusalem is one church with satellite campuses all throughout the city, because more likely than not, each of the individual houses where the majority of the church was meeting. There wasn’t a big enough space, and there is some localized persecution.  So they’re meeting in homes. Don’t miss that about fellowship that it is a small group atmosphere. We are starting Sunday School in two weeks, Amen.  We are getting it going and I just want to tell you how important it is for you to be in a class.  To have that small, intimate time of fellowship where your class can grow in a spiritual way together.

You know, there’s really no way in a church our size that we can really know everybody on a very deep and intimate level.  We can know people, but not in a very deep, deep way. That’s the importance of the small fellowship.  Building lifelong relationships where we can pray together and work together and study God’s Word together. And if you’re not plugged into a Sunday School class or if you weren’t, I want to challenge you in two weeks, get plugged in.  Take the next step. You go beyond the Sunday morning worship and go deeper in your faith by fellowshipping with a smaller group of believers.  And so we’re really excited about that, and I challenge all of you to be here and to be a part of that.

The next thing that we see is the disciples are devoted to worship.  You see this in the breaking of the bread.  Every day they devoted themselves to meeting in the temple and they broke bread from house to house now.  I call this worship because it’s really talking about the Lord’s Supper and that is an act of worship.  But I want you to know what they did, because this ties into fellowship to.  This would have started as these big meals together with the church. And what did I tell you?  It goes to Biblical fellowship when we focus on Jesus. So they would gather on the Lord’s day, Sunday afternoons, and the church would eat together.  But before the main dish they would have the Lord’s supper. They would take time to say let’s focus on Jesus.  That’s how the Lord’s Supper was done early in church history. It was a part of a grand banquet or a grand meal that the church was having together.  Now I just think that’s awesome. Yeah, I think today we could do that and I think today it would be awesome, but just celebrating the Lord’s Supper is an act of worship as we gather together.

But another thing I want you to see about worship is all of them were together.  Don’t miss this.  Young people, old people together in worship.  Men and women together in worship.  Youth and children and adults together in worship.  Al Mohler says something very profound about children and worship.  And I’m going to quote a sermon from of his. Al Mohler says that “children are to be welcomed by Christ’s people.  Our churches should not be places where the people cannot wait to put children away in their own space so we can get to the task of adult worship.”  I want you to hear that very clearly, and I want you to hear it again. “Churches should not be a place where the people cannot wait to put children away in their own spaces to get to the adult task of worship.”  Mohler continues, “one of the greatest scandals of evangelicalism is we send people to their rooms when we get to church.”

Now Moller will go on to say he is not preaching against Sunday school. He is not preaching against children ministry.  He’s not talking about those things. He thinks that children Sunday school is supported. He thinks children ministry is important, but he’s talking about Sunday morning worship.  He says that when people look at the church worshipping on Sunday morning, they ought to see the church.  And that includes the youth and the children of the church.  I always heard this. The youth are the future. The youth are the future.  No, they’re not. No, they’re not.  They’re the church.  The youth and children are the church and they should be with us when we gather to worship.

I experienced this in a pretty powerful way several years ago.   My outlook on this changed drastically and I’ve told this story to a few of you.  Many years ago I was on a mission trip and we were in Honduras.  It had been a pretty rough week for me. That’s when I’d ended up in the hospital and had kidney stones.  But in one of the days where I was pain free, I was able to go to a local church in a village.  When I say village, we’re talking mud hut villages, no running water, no indoor bathrooms. A village, the poorest of poor.  We were able to go to church with these Honduran people.  There are about 50, maybe 60-70 of us there, men, women, young, old, youth and children. Now maybe it was ’cause I had not slept very much, but I wasn’t in that great of a mood to be honest with you.  And then when the 20 or so children started running, started playing, talking, screaming, crying. I got a little irritated.  You might be able to relate to that.  I got a little irritated and I remember thinking, this is such a distraction. How can we worship?  And I remember thinking how can this be reverent and honoring God?  Then something happened that changed my view forever.

At the end of that service, several members were saved, including several of those children.  I remember thinking about that that night, and I learned two things.  One, God’s Word is extremely powerful.  Children are going to think like children.  Children are going to reason like children.  Children are going to play and act like children and that should be celebrated.  But the Word of God will do something that I can’t do as a preacher. It can penetrate the hearts of those children, and it can work in them, and the Spirit can work in them in ways that we don’t know.  One of the kids that got saved ran around the whole time, I didn’t think he was listening at all.  But the Word of God has power to transform that young man’s life.

Second thing I learned.  Church, listen to me.  The wiggling and the squirming of children.  The noise of children.  I love seeing them out here on the playground. I love it and the noise of children is far better than the deafening silence of no children at all.  Don’t miss that.  As a church, we need to welcome the squirming.  Welcome the wiggling.  Welcome, the children and the youth.  You may be saying pastor, why are you bringing it up now?  Well, one it’s in the text because they’re all together in the temple. Children would have been in there worshipping with their parents and with their families.  They would have been acting like children.  But the other reason I brought it up is when you called me to be your pastor, you called a youth and children pastor.  My passion is to see the next generation transformed by the Gospel.  To see the next generation worshipping and surrendering their life to Jesus.  I mean, that’s what you have. I want to see families together in worship. I want to see them singing and praying together.  I want to see children and youth seeing the oldest member of this church worshipping. I want him to see it.  I want him to hear it because that’s how the next generation is going to learn how to follow Jesus.

And so the early church was together, and we as a church in 2021, need to be a church that welcomes young people into our worship environment, into our sanctuaries, outside, or inside. We shouldn’t send them to the rooms.  They should worship with us because they are the church.  The Word of God can transform those children like it can transform us.  Let us be a church. Let all the churches be churches that welcome young people.

It’s been said we are always one generation away from really no church at all.  If we don’t reach the young people with the Gospel, if we don’t include them, if we don’t love them and pour into them, they won’t be here when they graduate.  They won’t be here.  And so let’s model our church after the early church where we worship together.  We worship together.

The last thing is the disciples are devoted to prayer together.  They’re devoted to the Word of God. They’re devoted to fellowship. They’re devoted to worship. They’re devoted to prayer. They were praying and they were praising God.  Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this, because next Sunday we’ll start a four-week series on prayer. But what I want you to see here is that they are together and they are praying for each other.  They are praying for the Gospel to advance. Prayer is a thing that they are devoted to.

If someone says hey, I need you to pray for me, they prayed for them on the spot. That’s how I imagine it.  They would gather in their Sunday School classes or their home groups and they would pray together. They saw the importance of communicating with God. They saw the importance of depending upon God. They saw the importance of asking people to pray.

I don’t know, this might just be me, but when somebody says “how are you doing today?” “Good, good,  good.”  But in reality I’m not always good.  Or you say, “how can I pray for you?” “Oh I’m good, I’m good.”  You know there’s a lot of reasons we put on that mask and we put on that, you know, show of “we’re good, we’re strong.”  One of them is pride.  We don’t want to humble ourselves to ask for prayer.  They prayed for each other and they asked for prayer. If somebody was having a bad day, they talked to each other about it. That’s what our small groups are for, where you can be in a group of people where you pray for each other.

Listen, we need each other to get through this life and this world.  We need each other, to pray for each other and to encourage each other.  I know there are several people who pray for Graham and I constantly and we are so grateful for that because we need it.  And I want you to know that we’re praying for you. I pray for all of you. I go through our membership list and I lift you up in prayer weekly.  Because prayer is important and that is what we should be devoted to.  We should be devoted to spending time in prayer because the early church was and God desires it.

Now as we end the passage, the results of their devotion was the advancement of the Gospel.  Their devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ in these four areas led to more people being saved.  Every day, the Lord added to their number those who are being saved.  God honored their faithfulness and God honored their devotion. God used the church to do what the church was always intended to do, and it’s spread the Gospel. Listen when Jesus left playing A was the church. Jesus wasn’t sitting up there with God one day and said, how are we going to get this message out when you leave?  Well, I don’t know we could do this. We could do that.  No, plan A was the church and there’s not a Plan B. And you need to hear that.  For the Gospel to advance, the church has to do what the church has been called to do, and when we’re devoted to these four things, the Word of God, fellowship, worship, and prayer, then God will honor that and work in us and through us, and people will be saved.

So here’s the invitation today.  It’s simply a challenge to take the next steps.  Maybe you’re here and you’ve never made a decision to follow Jesus. Take the next step.  Give your life to the Lord.  Repent of your sins and come to Him and follow Him.  And maybe you’ve done that. Take the next step and be baptized. If you’ve never been baptized.  If you’ve been following Jesus and you’ve never been baptized, dunked in the water, take the next step.  If you’ve been attending our worship service, we love you. We love that you’re here. Take the next step into Sunday School when we start back.  Take the next step in your spiritual journey.

During the invitation, as we stand as we worship your, your challenge is to pray about the next steps in your life. Ask God to reveal to you in your heart, what do I need to do next?  Do I need to join the church? Do I need to be saved? Do I need to be baptized? Do I need to join a class?  Take the next steps.

Let’s pray together.

Father, we love You and we thank You.  Father help us to be devoted Christians.  Devoted to seeking and reading Your Word and applying it to our life. Devoted to the fellowship of the church.  Devoted to the worship of Almighty God and devoted to prayer.  Help us today to take the next steps that You would have us to take.  We ask all this in Jesus’ Name Amen and Amen.