June 22, 2010 David Balzer

Acts 2:42-47: The Heavenly Church On Earth

Baby photos. Some are gorgeous. Some are shockers! Posed. In pot-plants. Dressed-up. The worst are the brand-new baby photos. Swollen heads, puffy eyes. Not looking at their best.

These few verses are a baby photo of the church. So the question is. How’s the new baby LOOKING?

It’s WONDERFUL to be a new parent. Watching your baby grow and develop. Meeting new milestones. The first smile. The first night sleeping through. The first solid food. The first word.

But also the RESPONSIBILITY of being in charge of it all. Food, shelter, clean nappies. Medicine. Protection. Prams and cars and cots and bassinets and bottles and dummies.

And that’s just the start of a thousand important decisions they’ll be making over the years.

It can all seem pretty DAUNTING when you begin. I remember Caron and I getting home with Alex. A few days after she was born. Without the support network of the nurses. The breast-feeding experts.

Just the three of us. We looked and each other. We looked at Alex. And we both thought, “What do we do NOW?”

A bit like what the Apostles thought too. Here at the start of Acts.

They’d been stuck in a room. All praying together. Then Jesus had poured out his Holy Spirit. Giving them power to witness to God’s goodness. To guide them. To strengthen them. To be WITH them as they look after this new baby called the church. Making sure it grows up strong and healthy.

And as we look at verses 42-47, we see the characteristics of that growing baby. Right from the beginning, it was a church in which THE HOLY SPIRIT was WORKING. And what we see in that church are the PRIORITIES of the Holy Spirit. Things God wants to see grow in EVERY CHURCH.

And so WE can be shaped in what WE do. Refined. How do WE reflect the priorities of the early church?

The early church was;

1. A LEARNING church

2. A LOVING church

3. A WORSHIPPING church

4. An EVANGELISTIC church

In relation to the APOSTLES, they were a LEARNING church. In relation to EACH OTHER, they were a LOVING church. In relation to GOD, they were a WORSHIPPING church. And in relation to OTHERS, they were an EVANGELISTIC church.

1. A LEARNING church

Firstly, a learning church. Unlike what some Christians seems to think today, when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, he gives you the desire to LEARN. To study. To be taught. The Spirit DOESN’T lead us just to EMOTIONS and FEELINGS, or to OTHER ways of guidance. Look at the start of v42.

(Acts 2:42 NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ TEACHING.

God’s SPIRIT gives us a desire for God’s WORD.

The first thing we read about these 3000 new converts / is that the Holy Spirit enrols them in kindergarten for Christians. And the APOSTLES are the pre-school teachers.

And it wasn’t ANY OLD teaching. If it was anything like Peter’s sermon here in ch2, it would always be BIBLICAL, and CENTRED ON JESUS.

And it’s still the same today. The Holy Spirit wants the church to be a LEARNING church. Seriously committed to studying the Bible.

Because it’s the Bible that’s the SWORD of the Spirit. Eph 6. 17 says that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It’s the Bible that the Spirit uses to convict people of sin. To teach. To encourage. To guide. To empower. To give joy, and direction.

So let’s make sure we’re a LEARNING church. Is that a priority for you? Do you make an effort to be part of a home group? Is that a priority?

How committed are you to reading your Bible? How solidly have you carved out a regular time each day for it? What sort of ATTENTION do you give to God when you do? Do you give him ALL your concentration, or do you just skim through a chapter like your reading the paper. Do you actually expect him to SAY SOMETHING to you as you read?

Or what about church? Is the Bible talk an important time for you? Or just something to pass the time before supper?

Do you take NOTES during the sermon? Perhaps keep a journal of what God’s teaching you? Are you listening to sermons in the car, or on the train? There’s so much great stuff you can download! What Christian books are you reading?

The Holy Spirit builds a LEARNING church.

2. A LOVING church

The second thing we see/ is that the Holy Spirit builds a LOVING church. These guys were SERIOUSLY COMMITTED to each other. Look at v44.

(Acts 2:44-46 NIV)  All the believers were together and had everything in common. {45} Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. {46} 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,

It says they WERE TOGETHER. It says they had EVERYTHING in common. It says they SOLD THEIR POSSESSIONS AND GOODS. That’s pretty serious stuff! So it’s important that we get it exactly right what they did.

Some people understand these verses to say that the early church LIVED together in the one house, and pooled EVERYTHING.

But it just isn’t so. Verse 46 tells us they met IN EACH OTHER’S HOMES. So they can’t have all lived in the same house.

The same goes for selling all their possessions. It says that AS THEY HAD NEED some would sell something. When a need came up, someone met the need. It might have meant selling the spare cloak, or the best dinner set. They didn’t have the same sort of banking systems we have. The same sort of disposable income. We might right a cheque, or get some money out of the autobank. They sold something.

This was a LOVING church. And so they look after each other’s physical needs.

But you might say, “Hang on a minute, Dave! It says they had EVERYTHING in common.” Yes, but that doesn’t mean that they had to POOL everything into a common storage area.

At the end of Acts ch 4, it says that none of the disciples claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had. And that from TIME to TIME people sold houses or lands to distribute to those in need.

People were willing to share the things they had whenever they saw a need.

A while ago, my computer crashed. And I’m really lost without it. But I had at least three offers from people to loan me their computer. Someone loaned me software to help rescue my data. Someone else loaned me his printer to print a document. Another person offered me his computer.

What was theirs/ was mine. They still owned the goods, but we had it in common.

Or with all the new babies. There’s always lots of clothes and baby equipment and toys doing the rounds. From one family to the next. HSC textbooks. Good books.

Why does everyone need to own a lawnmower? Or an overlocker? Or a holiday house? Or a boat? (Actually I don’t think anyone here owns a boat. You better get to work on that!)

We show that we’re a loving church by having our goods in common. Let’s make sure we keep doing that. Keep NOTICING needs.

How SACRIFICIAL are you when it comes to the needs of others? Plenty of missionaries NEED our support, while we talk about how much we NEED that new DVD player, or that new lounge.

But love is seen in more than just GIVING MONEY. Because this first Christian church met EVERY DAY. They met in the temple courts. Or they met in homes. They ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

They looked for opportunities to get together. Sometimes it was specifically religious. Sometimes not.

And notice, they ENJOYED each other’s company. They had glad and sincere hearts. Sometimes I think we ENDURE each other’s company. We can’t wait to get home again. We think that we’re too busy to spend time with each other.

We ask someone how they’re going, But aren’t really interested in the answer. Don’t ASK, unless you WANT to KNOW!

But that’s not the sort of church that the Holy Spirit builds. He builds a LOVING church.

3. A WORSHIPPING church

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit builds a WORSHIPPING church.

Halfway through v 46 it says,

(Acts 2:46-47 NIV)  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, {47} PRAISING GOD and enjoying the favor of all the people.

This was worship of God that was GLAD AND SINCERE. They were thankful. They were joyful. There was a sense of excitement and happiness and elation that they were part of God’s family. Praising God, together with his people, brought a sense of PLEASURE and FULFILLMENT. This is what life’s about! This is where I’m supposed to be!

Is that what you feel about the time we spend together?

On the other hand, one of the criticisms SOME older folk have about modern churches like ours/ is that there’s no SENSE OF AWE. I think they mean that we’ve become too FAMILIAR with God. There’s too little recognition that God is “OTHER”. Or SACRED. That he’s TRANSCENDENT. Above us.

The argument goes that silence, and bowed heads, and organ music, and big cathedrals helps you have a sense of awe.

I don’t agree with the ARGUMENT, but I do agree that we must never forget how AWESOME God is. Because it’s knowing what GOD is like/ which makes us GRATEFUL and thankful and gives us a desire to serve him and love him and honour him.

Reminding each other of the AWESOMENESS of God. That comes from singing good, meaty songs, and praying WELL, and reading LOTS of God’s Word.

Reminding each other of what God’s like. They’re the things that build a sense of AWE with God.

And the early church might have had glad and sincere hearts. But they didn’t lose their AWE either. Look at v43 of Acts 2.

(Acts 2:43 NIV)  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

It was the wonders and miracles that caused everyone to be filled with awe. A realisation of how powerful and authoritative and real God and his kingdom was.

Notice the two words used here. Wonders and signs. “Wonders” are deeds whose intention is to cause people to gape in amazement. Real jaw-droppers!

And miraculous SIGNS are designed to POINT to something. In this case to the ONE who performed the miracles. God. And that’s exactly what the job of the Holy Spirit is. To point people to God.

The Holy Spirit built a WORSHIPPING church. One who worshipped with glad and sincere hearts, but who also recognised the AWESOMENESS of God.

We need to be a WORSHIPPING church.

4. An EVANGELISTIC church

Fourthly, the Holy Spirit built an EVANGELISTIC church. That seems obvious from the fact that their first outreach service resulted in 3000 converts. But look a bit closer. It was about more than just BIG ONE-OFF EVENTS. Look at the end of v 47.

(Acts 2:47 NIV)  And the Lord added to their number DAILY those who were being saved.

On a regular basis. Daily. As a result of what they did EACH DAY. People were coming into the church.

Their LIFESTYLE was evangelism. They didn’t switch it off. And switch it on. Listen to the lesson Peter learned from these times. In 1 Peter 3. 15 he wrote

(1 Pet 3:15 NIV)  ALWAYS be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

Always on duty. And people found their lives ATTRACTIVE. They enjoyed the favour of all the people. There was something about them.

Do people say that about us? What do we need to do for that to happen?

And notice that they weren’t just joining the church for the nice people. For the new circle of friends. For the free stuff. The Lord added to their number daily THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.

The church wasn’t just getting bigger. It was getting bigger with people who were BECOMING CHRISTIANS. People the Holy Spirit was drawing, and turning, and evangelising.

The Holy Spirit built an EVANGELISING church.

5. Conclusion:

Well. That’s the sort of church the Holy Spirit builds. How does it measure up to ours? Which things are we doing WELL at? Which – not so well?

What can we do to help the Holy Spirit build this church into one that’s worthy of Jesus? What can we do to make OUR EXPERIENCE of church more like this?

Why not CHOOSE one of these areas to make your priority this year. How can you improve this individually. In yourself.

And how can you improve how we do at this area AS A CHURCH?

That’s something you can do. But Here’s something we DON’T have to do. We DON’T have to pray for the Holy Spirit to come. He’s already done that. He’s living in each believer. Not half a Holy Spirit. Not a taste. Not the little bit that comes before the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus lives in us.

But I do believe we can FORGET about Him. Or ignore him. Or choose to do things WITHOUT him. Or focus on things which aren’t his priorities.

And that’s called either PUTTING OUT the Spirit’s FIRE in 1 Thess 5. Or not being FILLED with the Spirit in Eph 6.

And BOTH of those passages are to do with how CHURCH is going. How we relate to each other. They’re not INDIVIDUAL at all. Because that’s not the way the Holy Spirit works. He works to BUILD CHURCHES.

And I think in each passage, the way we DO put out the Spirit’s fire, or not allow ourselves to be filled, is by not getting each of these relationships right. Either not being a LEARNING church. Or a LOVING church. Or a WORSHIPPING church. Or an EVANGELISTIC church.

First. 1 Thess 5. v 14.

(1 Th 5:14-22 NIV)  And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. {15} Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. {16} Be joyful always; (That’s being a LOVING church) {17} pray continually; {18} give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (That’s being a WORSHIPPING church) {19} Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; {20} do not treat prophecies with contempt. {21} Test everything. Hold on to the good. {22} Avoid every kind of evil. (That’s being a LEARNING church – listening to prophecies)

And it’s the same idea with the Eph 5 passage. From Verse 21.

(Eph 5:15-21 NIV)  Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, {16} making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (An EVANGELISTIC church). {17} Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (That’s a LEARNING church) {18} Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. {19} Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (A LOVING church) Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, {20} always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (A WORSHIPPING church) {21} Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Let’s press on with the Holy Spirit’s priorities. Let’s build a church that’s LEARNING. That’s LOVING. That’s WORSHIPPING. And that’s EVANGELISING.

And let’s not put out the Spirit’s fire.

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