Saturday, August 06, 2011
Complacent or Committed? Acts 2:41-47
I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meeting on July 31 to August 7, 2011. This lesson begins a short series asking the question: To what are we as Christians committed? My goal is to give an overview of the attitudes, passions, and even practices in which the early church engaged as a means of gauging where we are as an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church. I hope you get something from it! If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!
Complacent or Committed?
I have to confess, I am a college football fanatic.
Not a fan, but a fanatic
My wife will tell you, I can watch just about ANY college football game and get passionately involved
I’ll even cheer loudly for teams I barely know
I’m certainly not a complacent fan
On the other hand, I don’t know that I am committed to college football.
I’m certainly not as committed as the young people who play the game
They practice regularly, they sweat together, they plan together, they even bleed together every week just to get ready for one game
They are passionate and committed to the success of their team
Have you ever been part of a church that was like that?
Someone describe an experience in a passionate and committed body of believers
I don’t know about you, but I could be attracted to a gathering like that—a group of people on fire
A fire creates excitement and attracts people
Charles Finney said: If your church is on fire, people will come from miles around to watch it burn.
Today I want us to take a look at a passage in Acts and ask: What can we gain from this passage to become a committed community for Christ?
How can true community be generated in a world that puts a premium on privacy?
Who are these People?
Remember that this gathering started with 11 men—a conglomeration of fishermen, tax collectors, and other undesirables
In fact, these individuals weren’t even properly educated
On the day of Pentecost, few of those present had walked with Jesus for 3 years, the rest were relatively new believers
None of them were “ordained” or “licensed” to preach
They only had what we call the Old Testament, and even then they probably didn’t have a personal copy to read daily
They simply put into action what they saw Jesus do
What did these people have that we need?
They had passion and commitment
Acts 2:41-47—They were committed
1. To God’s Word
2. To Others
3. To Worship
Commitment requires effort/Complacency is easy
1. Committed to God’s Word
Note in verse 42 that the new believers in Christ were “continually devoting” themselves to something
What does it mean to be continually devoted to something?
To what did the early Christians continually devote themselves?
"Continually devoting" is the idea of "giving constant attention to," or "being steadfast.” These early Christians set the proper example for us to follow in "continually devoting themselves" to some important elements for Christian life. I doubt that many of us are quite as committed. We make a false dichotomy between secular and sacred so that “Christian life" is separate and distinct from the rest of life. Being a Christian becomes merely a part of what we are, but it is not our focus or commitment. We compartmentalize our lives and then our Christian life is just another “part” of it, just another routine to mark off of our daily “to do” list. When the body does not function correctly, then both the whole and the individual parts that make it up are unhealthy.
These first Christians devoted themselves first to the “apostle’s teaching”
What is meant by “the apostle’s teaching”?
What was it that the apostles taught?
These early believers had no New Testament to read, so the teaching of the apostles probably represented teaching from the Old Testament and from the life and teaching of Jesus
This teaching became the “Word of God” to the early believers
They staked their lives on God’s communication to them via Scripture
What was happening was thoroughly rooted in Scripture. It was biblical. The Lord guided them through the teaching and preaching of his Word. (Psalm 119:9, 11, 36-38, 89-90, 105)
Now that the apostles are gone, we have their witness in the New Testament
God endeavors to lead and to teach us through Scripture
The “apostle’s teaching” for us is the Bible itself (Heb. 2:1-4)
Of course, this commitment required time and effort
To learn what God is teaching, we must take time to read his Word and act on it (2 Timothy 2:14-15)
Remember, the first believers were active participants in what was being taught by the apostles. What they were being taught was impacting their hearts and lives. They acted on it
We should do the same today—being committed to God’s Word means more than simply reading it, it means doing what it says (Heb. 4:1-2, 6-7; Romans 16:25-27)
Commitment to God’s Word requires time with and a response to God
Complacency ignores Scripture and leads to ignorance
That brings us to our next point, part of doing God’s Word is to be committed to others
2. Committed to Others
The key word here is koinonia, which means sharing, participation, contribution, or (most commonly) fellowship
The idea here is not coffee and donuts, especially since they were several centuries away
The idea is one of sharing life together
This is not a mere sentimental feeling, it is not mere uniformity or “getting along”
As Jim Davis puts it: “Church attendance is often substituted for fellowship. To some fellowship is like a jar full of marbles. The marbles are in the same jar but there is little togetherness. The marbles have little effect on each other as they roll around in a jar. They just bump into one another. But real fellowship is more like a jar of grapes that bleed on one another. Fellowship should allow our faith to rub off on one another. The first believers had real spiritual needs that led them into fellowship with others. As they came into this fellowship of other believers with the same needs, they naturally bled on one another. “
Philippians 2:1-4; 12-16
Working out our salvation is a corporate act, the “you” here is plural
The goal is to live life together, the life of Christ
Fellowship of this type is encouraging, it is focused on the cross, on humility, and on service
Our technology today conspires against this type of interaction and fellowship
This fellowship manifests itself as an intense sense of responsibility for each other (Romans 12:13; in fact, the whole chapter is good on this issue)
The early church was known for its love (1 John 3:18-19)
Does our fellowship manifest itself in how we take care of each other? Yes, but what does it say about us?
The early Christians continually devoted themselves to “breaking bread” together—they even did it daily and in each others houses
What does it mean to “break bread” together?
How would you like eating meals regularly with others in G.A.P.?
“Breaking bread” may refer to the Lord’s Supper
Of course, it could simply mean sharing a meal too (cf. Luke 24:30-32)
The early church apparently spent a lot of time with each other
Daily they worshiped at the Temple and ate together in each others’ houses
Fellowship means living life together
It means being involved in each others lives—the good and the bad, the clean and the messy—all of it
Commitment requires us to be involved in each others’ lives
Complacency results in our neglect of one another
3. Committed to Worship
We’ve already mentioned that “breaking bread” may refer to the Lord’s Supper, which was a regular act of worship among the early Christians
Whenever they met, they had a meal and commemorated Christ’s death and resurrection
But as we have already noted before, worship is not simply what we do in a building, it is what we do with and for each other
The early Christians were devoted to “the prayers”
The term here may refer to the daily prayers of the Temple and the synagogue
At the very least, this reminds us that “living life together” means to pray regularly
We are called to pray regularly and not only when “the Spirit moves”
The heart of their worship was a focus on God—who he is and what he has accomplished (2 Cor. 5:18-21)
The early believers understood that God’s love made their love for each other possible (2 Cor. 5:13-15)
God’s love and devotion made new life a reality for those who place their faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-10)
Their experience of salvation led to worship in all of life—in how they responded to God and how they responded to each other
Their worship was both private and public
Commitment to worship requires us to focus on what is important to God
Complacency causes us to look out for our own interests
This is a lot of stuff to understand. We need to remember, however, that this is not simply a list of things “to do” in order to become a healthy or committed group. We cannot simply add these three to our list and say we’re committed or healthy
We must develop the passion and attitudes that are depicted in this passage
And to do that will require self-examination and then action
Will we do it? How can we?
Here are some suggestions:
First, make up your mind that being a part of G.A.P. is not simply an opportunity to hang out with others and be a part of something. From today on, we will ask ourselves the hard questions about how to be the body of Christ and how to live by his Word and by his Spirit. This week you need to ask yourself the hard question—am I committed to helping this group of people become on fire with the passion of Christ?
Second, we need to devote ourselves to those things that are mentioned in our passage today: God’s Word, one another, and worship. Make a point this week to set aside time for each of these daily. I don’t care how much time you give (15 minutes, an hour, etc.), but make a conscious choice to spend time reading and doing God’s Word; getting involved in encouraging and supporting each other; and praying and worshipping together.
In the next three weeks, we will look more specifically at these things.
Are we committed or complacent?
One requires effort, the other is way too easy
Thanks for reading!