Acts 2. 42-46: Broken Record
September 4, 2011 Series: Stand Alone Sermons
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: Acts 2:42–2:46
Intro: A Broken Record
In preparing to preach today, I reviewed one my older sermons from 2008, preached two days after I resigned my job as a teacher. In reading it, I realized that I could probably preach it today and it would apply just as well. Pastor and author John Piper famously claimed that if you have read one of his books, you have basically read all of his books because they all say the same thing. I wonder if I should feel the same way about my sermons. It seems like in our world of podcasts, blogs, and twitter, pastors try very hard to one up the last guy with a clever new way to say something. Perhaps we should aspire to be more like a broken record. A quick survey of the apostles sermons throughout the book of Acts will demonstrate how much creativity they lacked—Jesus Christ life, death, and resurrection summarizes everything they said every time. So, even though we need to employ today’s language and illustrations in order make sense to the culture, at its core, what we preach and what we do as a church should largely be what has been done for the last 2,000 years. Our intent is not edginess in our methods or entertainment in our message; it is to faithfulness to Jesus and His bride. There are some things that should never change.
But there is much that can, should, and will change. And as we start another year here at Damascus Road, perhaps more than others, a lot is going to change. A ton has changed since my old sermon in 2008, and even more has changed since we first began meeting in houses and garages. And now, after five years, having just planted a new church, old friends are leaving, new people are coming, and things are once again changing. Personally, I love change. I think the majority of people do not. It seems like for most of our lives we devote our time and energy to finding stability and comfort so that we can make everything predictable, pleasurable, and secure. We detest the random, avoid the painful, and refuse to take risks. We make commitments we like so we can avoid those we don’t, and we make plans (even if only in our mind) to convince ourselves we’re in control of what feels like chaos. We make plans for the holidays, plans for our jobs, plans for the school year, plans for birthdays, plans for dinner, plans for the week, plans for the house, plans for the yard, plans for vacation, plans for church, plans for our kids, plans for our marriages, plans for retirement, plans for finances, plans for our education, 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plans. And sadly, we believe that our plans will always come about the way that we expect, even though the Bible says, Prov 19.21 21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Sometimes, a lot of times, God makes a mess of our pretty little plans. When Jesus shows up in a person’s life, all bets are off and our plans get tossed right out the window. In Acts 9, a man named Saul had a plan walking on the Road to Damascus. He had a plan to arrest and kill Christians. Then Jesus shows up, throws him off of his horse, asks him a few questions, and blinds him. The men he was with led blind Saul into the city where he would meet with a Christian named Ananias. Ananias had a plan—hide from Saul. Then Jesus shows up. He tells Ananias to go meet Saul and pray for this man who came to murder him because God was going to change him from Saul the murderer to Paul the martyr. God’s plans are always better, even if they seem foolish.
I had plan, this was not it. Then Jesus showed up. My plan didn’t include being a pastor or planting a church. My plan was quite simple, be a Husband, be a Dad, be a teacher, and live happily ever-after, poor with Summers off and everyone liking me. Then, after seven years of relative educational bliss, Jesus showed up and said go. So, I told God (always a mistake) that, “this is not how things are supposed to work out…I had a plan.” God responded…he simply said mine is better. Now, I’m not some spiritual giant; I’m no more courageous than the next guy; I’m not special because I get to be behind a pulpit; and though I am qualified to be an elder, I still fall short of God’s standard in every way. I’m one of many willing to follow where Jesus is leads, not because I was equipped or ready, but because the fear of not listening to him scares me much more than the uncertainty of what might happen if I do.
So as we regroup as a family this month, my hope is that you will see any “changes” not as promotion of something new, but a return to something very old. And my prayer is that Jesus show up to challenge you, convict you, comfort you, to WAKE YOU UP into the reality that there is more than this life—that God has kept you alive and brought you here because He something for you to do—and you may need to change. That God expects you to do something in response to all He has done, for his glory and, believe it or not, your joy.
Our text today comes from the second chapter of the book of Acts. We will begin our study of Colossians next week. For today, we are going to return to the early days of the church. Right before ascending to heaven, a resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them for their gospel work. In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit comes, resulting in a hard headed, 3-time denier of Jesus, blue collar fisherman Peter stands up and preaches his first sermon ever. In response, 3000 people believe and are baptized into the church in one day. No pressure as a pastor. Then, in verse 42, Luke describes what the church begins to do, giving us a pattern explain why we do what we do today as the church: 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
42-43 GOSPEL TRUTH
Every believer, every church, every mission begins with the proclamation of Gospel Truth. As one pastor has said it, “You win people to what you win them with.” The early church did not possess clever marketing schemes, colorful brochures, organized programs for kids, or whatever the culture might expect for success. Though not inherently evil, the problem with all of those things is the sin in us that make them evil. Namely, we become devoted to looking for and expecting the wrong things from the church. The one thing these people had was the gospel—and seeing as we are here today, the gospel is clearly enough to accomplish the purposes of the Lord.
41 Devotion to Apostle’s teaching & fellowship
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship,
From the beginning, these believers are first and foremost devoted to solid Scripture-filled preaching and teaching. The church was founded on and built on the uncompromising, life-giving, but often offensive truth of the gospel. These new believers were more devoted to the purity of their confession, the purity of their worship, the purity of their walk in Christ, more committed to knowing and living in what God thought of them, than worrying about what men thought or even felt. That is because they believed that true comfort, true hope, and true joy for everyone came not through hiding or holding back truth, but from knowing and boldly preaching the truth of forgiveness through faith Jesus Christ, not in trying to avoid talking about sin, Satan, or hell. These new believers were hungry to learn, to grow, and to renew their minds with Scripture so that, as Paul writes in Romans 12, they might know the will of God and discern what is good and acceptable and perfect in the world around them. And this kind of devotion to teaching implies more than just intellectual understanding, it means they actually applied the teaching to action.
42.b Devotion to Communion & THE prayers to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Among other things, we see that this meant they were committed to the Lord’s Supper and to prayer—two things that Jesus himself taught them to do. If we actually take Jesus’ commands seriously, Communion is not optional. Communion, the Eucharist (thanksgiving), or the Lord’s Table, is a family meal taken every week at Damascus Road because Jesus commanded it. Following our worship through the sermon, as we worship in song, people come forward and take a small piece of bread and dip it in juice or wine, and eat it. Sadly, it seems Communion has lost its sacredness and, as a result, its meaning. Many of us grew up at churches where we took communion once a month out of routine. Ushers would pass large shiny plates with microscopic crackers that got stuck in our teeth after one bit. Then, another shiny stacked plat would come around with small smurf-size cups of juice. AND, without much thought, we’d take a cup and wafer because it felt weird not to.
In truth, the sacrament of Communion is one of the essential marks of a Christian Church. It is means through which the church participates in our common salvation; where we remember our NEW LIFE in Christ, we unify in our SHARED LIFE, we experience a RENEWED LIFE, and we hope in our ETERNAL LIFE. When we look at how various Christians worship today, it is apparent that few believe that Communion is the central aim and goal of worship. Our entire concept of worship is skewed. If someone asks how your “worship” was on Sunday they’ll respond with how the music made them feel—good, bad, or indifferent. It is not often we hear, “Communion was amazing.” Implied by Communion is a belief that we are perpectually dependent upon God for life now and in the future. And this commitment is further seen by the fact that this new church is a praying church. They are committed to corporate prayers. I find that as we grow “older” as Christians, we wrongly start to assume we have things figured out and under control. The same happens with the church. We are quick to organize games, retreats, and fun activities, but less apt to organize a prayer gathering. Why? Fear that no one will show up. I am convicted by this. Our leadership and our fellowship must be committed to pleading to God for wisdom corporately or I fear we will begin to believe we save ourselves.
43. The Result of their devotion to Gospel Truth 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
We see in verse 43, the fruit produced through their devotion to the truth. One word….AWE. As they mediated on the truth of God, as they came face to face with the cross, and as they spent time with God in prayer, they were filled with AWE—a fear and intimate reverence for God’s holiness. Every soul, in or outside their church, sensed God’ awesomeness and they saw His wonders. They weren’t awed by buildings, programs, or even people—but by the presence and power of God in their midst.
44-46 GOSPEL COMMUNITY - Devotion to community & meeting needs
Damascus Road, we have seen amazing wonders of God in the last five years. Not everyone has been here that entire time, which only speaks even more to God’s mysterious ways. And if for a second we can ignore whatever unmet expectations we have, I believe that we will be AWED by what God has done here. And that gift that God has given us should bring us closer and closer together. That is what it did for the early church: 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
Inexplicably, a group of at least 3,000 people began to function like a family. How did they do it? It’s hard enough to have 300 love each other like this. We use church size as an excuse. When churches grow, people begin to feel overwhelmed, and start viewing membership like a social club built to benefit me AND worship like an event designed to entertain me. Those going to the church begin to distance themselves from the church and complain about it as if they are connected with it—like students saying their school has “no spirit”. You are the school. You are the church. This early church understood that better than we do. Just read how they are described: 1) Together 2) had all things in common 3) selling their possessions 4) distributing to those in need. Why? Not programs. Not Pastor guilt. This is not as offensive as communism. But it is the unusual, unpopular, and somewhat foolish act of people voluntarily and generously loving and caring for one another just as Jesus commanded. Weird.
Attending the Temple together & Breaking Bread in Homes
How did they know who was in need? They were together. What does that mean? They weren’t alone. More than facebook friends. They knew each other because they spent time with each other. We read that they attended the temple to worship, and probably evangelize, together. But doing that every day with 3,000 people at once is difficult—the Romans hadn’t invented Strip Malls for them to meet in yet. So they gathered in smaller groups, in homes, to in order to effectively live together. This is why we have Road Groups. Beginning today, we want to elevate the importance of Road Groups, not to grow the church, but to as an OLD and EFFECTIVE way to be the church God commands us to be. Churches often struggle with a lack of balance between the church as a public assembly and a dependent family. This usually results in a wrong assumption that “church” is what happens on Sundays. While this is an essential part of a true church’s identity in the gospel, the assembly alone is not an environment where men and women can actively live out the intimacy that true gospel community requires. More than that, we believe that community is one of God’s most powerful tools for sanctification—to make us look more like Christ. We believe that is one of the reasons why God COMMANDS us to “one another” so many things—30 of which I have listed in the leadership booklet. As an assembly on Sunday mornings it is nearly impossible to fulfill these commands. Groups exist as a place to encourage all of our obedience to these commands for the glory of God and our joy.
Let me be honest with you, Scripture makes it clear that leaders will be held accountable to God for the flock that they shepherd. This applies not only to what we teach, but to how we shepherd the needs of those in our care. Unfortunately, none of our elders are gifted with ESP. So, we must trust God will raise up leaders to help a large church stay small so that we can know, understand, and minister to needs. In other words, the elder board cannot effectively shepherd a flock of this size without members starting to believe that you are the church—a priesthood of believers. Just as any church should not be polarized around the teaching of one pastor, churches should not be dependent on a small group of elders to minister to all of their needs directly and personally. This is neither wise nor Biblical. Attempts to pastor this way will result in overlooked needs and overwhelmed pastors. The elders are not mentioned in this passage, because the church is all of us.
Conclusion: The Result of their Gospel Community
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In end, verse 47, we see what a devotion to Gospel truth and Gospel Community does—it naturally leads them to being the missionaries they are supposed to be. No programs, no formal evangelistic outreaches, no need…the church is being the church—the same broken record it was 2,000 years ago. More than that, it is a church that is joyful while on mission, a church full of people that praise God, and a church that impacts the community wherever a member of that church goes. My prayer is that this next year, we are renewed by a very old model. The early church was a people that could be seen. It was a church that refused to compromise or water down the truth. It was a church whom others could not help but like, because of the love they saw its people had for one another. It was a church people wanted to be a part of. And it was a church where you wanted others to be a part of it. This does not happen overnight or with some new program. It happens when each one of us begins to be more faithful than we were yesterday, and less than we will be tomorrow. Amen.
Benediction: 2Corinthians 5.14-20
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.