Acts 2:42 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.
Public Service Announcement:
I don’t thank the people around me enough for their kindness towards me. Or maybe I do thank those whom I see frequently…but not to those who either provide behind-the-scenes support/administration in ways I’m unaware or who give otherwise anonymously. I do not deserve and could not have earned their loving care and help. My church family has stepped up to help fill in the big gaps where I’ve needed help with most everything these days due to my health conditions. There are still ongoing needs to be filled, but God has always made a way even when there “was no way”.
If you do want to serve and aren’t sure how you can help, here is a sign-up sheet!
You can also ask Rachel Pannell, who knows my current needs. Donna Walton coordinates cooking dates with ladies so that I can have food to eat. Dave Burnett coordinates twice-per-month housecleaning dates.
End of Transmission (you’re like…”whew!”). : )
Acts 2, especially the verses I highlighted above, are meaningful to me because 1) I see this happening in my own life, 2) I see this happening in the lives of people in my church, and 3) this is what it looks like to live in the Spirit and walk by the Spirit in love for God and for one another.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
I see evidence of these things happening in my church, of hearts softening, lives changing, obedience to God becoming a joy and a desire rather than a burden. I feel the call of the Holy Spirit in my own heart for me to be more consistent in following through with the spiritual disciplines. Will I follow and devote myself to Christ’s teachings? Devotion – what a packed word, full of meaning. God is devoted to me, and I pray He will make me devoted to Himself as well by the power of the Holy Spirit within me.
I think it’s interesting that devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles is mentioned right next to fellowship. I mean, I find it easy to think that “doing what the pastor preaches in his sermon” is somehow more important than engaging in the blessing of fellowship where we as a church are melded together, strengthened and edified. Yet these characteristics and actions of the believers in Acts 2 are lumped together, as if you can’t really separate them out and say “oh, this one is more important than that one” – it’s ALL part of living a life that’s filled with the Spirit of God, which requires obedience to God’s Word (which was being preached through the apostles and is preached still today).
1 Corinthians 14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Room for growth. How often do I prepare myself during the week, reading God’s Word, listening to and waiting on His voice to speak in my spirit so that not only have I been built up, but so that I have a blessing to give to others in the form of a hymn or a lesson, a revelation, etc? Like Jacob, I need to cling sometimes and even if it means wrestling, I will wrestle for the blessing. “I will not let go until you bless me, Lord, and until you provide a blessing that I can give to others through a hymn, lesson, revelation, tongue, or interpretation so that they may be encouraged!”
Building up the church, ourselves, one another – it takes work and preparation. God can and gladly will use us suddenly whether we’re willing participants or not (God used Saul – who prophesied – and many others in the Bible, whether or not they were either knowledgeable of His using them or desiring of it). But how much more is the one through whom God blesses others him or herself blessed by being a willing and eager vessel for the Lord’s work?
Due to health issues, I’ve not been able to make it to church nearly as often. When I do go, I usually have to lay down soon after I arrive due to exhaustion/pain/medication side effects, or a combination of all that and more. I often end up sleeping through the sermon (sorry, pastors…I still love you and listen to the sermons online!). Sometimes the only time during the whole service where I’m actually interacting with other people is either when I’m in the bathroom or in the church lobby about 1/2 hours after church has ended and people are still “shipping the fellow” (fellowshipping).
Yet what has amazed me is that, though I feel physically less than useless, God still uses me when I go to church. Sometimes it’s a lady I’ll meet in the bathroom and God will give me an encouraging word for her, something that doesn’t come from a trite Christian cliche, but an understanding of suffering, a listening ear, and then a piece of truth that my friend can cling to, be it ever so small. Sometimes it’s just praying with a friend and I find myself encouraged by their prayers for me – they prayed for something that they couldn’t have even known I needed except God putting it on their heart, and my prayers for them will also hit that God-spot in their life as well. So while I have less time to be around others (or at least to be around others and be awake and able to communicate!), it’s like God has concentrated that time of ministry ten-fold and I’m still blessed by the fellowship and I suspect the believers around me, as the Holy Spirit moves through me, are also edified. It’s been an interesting experience that’s had me kind of sit back and say “huh!” because I have no other words for it…just perhaps noting that God wastes nothing. As we’re willing, He will use us to the greatest capacity He can within the confines of the weaknesses He himself has allowed in our lives.
Maybe it’s a temptation to think that communion is just “remembering Christ’s sacrifice”, rather than it being more than that – a witness, a testimony, even a mysterious proclamation, not only to the world but also into the heavenly realms, of God’s plan and fulfillment of salvation.
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Peter 1: 10-12 It was revealed to them [the prophets of the Old Testament] that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you [the apostles] by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Does it strike you like it strikes me that the angels themselves are eager to understand the salvation of the people of God and that jut perhaps when we take corporate communion together to proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns, they stoop yet a bit lower in amazement?
The final phrase of our text tells us that angels long to look into the things relating to our salvation. There are two different Greek words here. One means to stand on tiptoe, as if you are at the back of a crowd trying to watch a parade. The other means to stoop down. It’s the same word used for Peter and John stooping to look inside the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning. The angels are so eager to understand God’s grace that they stand on tiptoe and bend down from the battlements of heaven to marvel at the unfolding plan of salvation. This is exactly the reverse of the way we think of it. If I told you that I had a special door that let me look into the realm of the angels, all of you would crowd around to get a glimpse of “the other side.” But the Bible never encourages us to peek into the angelic realm. Here we are told the angels long to look at and understand our salvation.
Why would the angels marvel at our salvation? The answer is clear. There are no “saved” angels because salvation is not for them, but for us. Jesus died to redeem fallen men and women, not the angels. There are elect and non-elect angels; there are good angels and bad angels; there are obedient and disobedient angels, but there are no “saved” angels. Only humans can be saved. Only humans can be redeemed. We alone of all the creatures in the universe can experience the wonders of God’s saving grace. This fascinates the angels, and causes them to study and ponder the mysteries of a salvation they do not share.
Here is Peter’s message made plain: God loves you so much, the angels are amazed. They know nothing about grace and mercy and forgiveness. They’ve never experienced new life, the new birth, regeneration, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or the wonder of deliverance from sin. That which we have experienced in Jesus Christ, the angels never knew and will never know. We are far more privileged than they.
(Many thanks to Keep Believing Ministries for making THIS and other resources available free of charge on their website – what an excellent sermon this was, and I encourage my readers to check it out in detail!)
AWE, WONDERS and SIGNS
And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
1 Corinthians 24-25 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
We the Church are ministers one unto another and unto the world. We have a slogan (perhaps I should call it a motto?) in our church – “Every Member Ministry”. Do you know what “every member” means? Yes, it’s a trick question – it means “ever member”! If the Holy Spirit is living in you, then YOU (YES, YOU!!!) have a gift that is meant to be given freely to others!
Are we still in Awe of God? Or are we yawning at Him? Sometimes I yawn. The AWE just isn’t there. I know He’s there…up there…and sometimes He feels pretty far away (I’m down here). Let’s be praying for the AWE of God to fall upon us again, and as it says in the passage to fall on “EVERY SOUL”, to lead us to repentance, and then to lead us to worship and praise that’s more God-glorifying and satisfying than any we’ve experienced before.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
Galatians 3:26-29 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Conversely, all who believe do not have all things in common with those who do not believe, but are called to be separate from darkness, which is also the darkness in which the believers once walked, and bring the light of Christ into that darkness represented by the unbelievers and the past darkness in the believers’ lives as well.
1 Corinthians 14:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
There is hope for the unbeliever because of Christ. Though the rift between believer and believer is deep and wide, as only the believer has a true inheritance while the unbeliever has everlasting judgment…once an unbeliever’s heart changes and he or she believes and receives the Holy Spirit (as anyone who is saved has received the Holy Spirit, which also testifies to his or her salvation), the converted unbeliever now shares ALL in common with the saints and there is to be no division, as God Himself has brought alienated Gentiles (the category to which probably a good 95% or more of us reading this blog belong, not being Jews) to salvation.
Acts 10:34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. ….42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
There are many beautiful promises in Scripture for those who bless the poor. God’s heart reaches out to the poor and helpless, and his Holy Spirit living in His people does as well. Interestingly, the Bible also has a lot to say about those who oppress or neglect the poor, and those are hard words to swallow. Grateful as I am, I’ll share a few blessings for those who give:
Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
I do not know how many people serve me in anonymity or without sounding a trumpet; I just know that they are there. Though I’d like to know who they are and in each way they have served me (whether it be considered “small” or “great” – all service/giving done in the name of the Lord and with cheerfulness gives glory to God).
Matthew 6:1-4 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I am also grateful to those in the church who have invited me into their families, who have consider me as a sister, aunt, daughter, friend, and who have welcomed me into their homes and lives.
Luke 14:12-14 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
The giving heart of the believers in the book of Acts really is astounding to me. Perhaps in America, generally speaking, it would require nothing short of a move of the Holy Spirit – a REVIVAL if you will – for the Christian Church in this country to share this same vision to such a degree as the believers in Acts.
Acts 4:32-35 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Thank you, to those who give both anonymously and those who give their time and love and concern who I see daily. I am truly grateful and blessed.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God
How often do we receive our food with glad and generous hearts, praising God? Like, I mean….REALLY. You know? This goes above and beyond the “Lord Jesus, thank you for this day and for this food; please bless it to our bodies, Amen (gobble, gobble)” which isn’t a bad place to start especially for a younger believer, but the question is “what is the posture of our hearts towards God as we accept His goodness?” This posture can’t truly be assessed by others, or by what is or isn’t said in a prayer, for God is the one who truly knows our hearts and a “prettier” prayer over food isn’t necessarily a better prayer.
Especially if prettier prayer = longer prayer, in which case you’re tempting your hungry brothers and sisters in the Lord to sin by hating you for delaying the satisfaction of their stomachs’ rumblings. Let’s be honest, right?…NOBODY likes that long-winded prayer-warrior praying over the hot turkey dinner resting patiently (as you stare at it through eyes that you’re pretending are closed so nobody knows you’re eyeing the cranberry sauce instead of paying attention to the warrior’s prayer) on Thanksgiving day even though it is Thanksgiving day. A child’s prayer may be more sincere than that of the “prettier” prayer’s prayer in God’s eyes. The poor man beat his breast in agonizing and likely bumbling prayer before the Lord, which was acceptable, while the Pharisee made sure his prayer was of he ornamental variety.
But what I’m talking about here is being aware of our great need – our need for food for our bodies every day, our need for spiritual filling and refreshing every day, our need for his “mercies anew” every day. His great provision for both our physical and spiritual needs is utterly ASTOUNDING when we step back and really consider it, consider just how truly needy we are, and how consistent He has been in providing our needs as we sought Him to be our provider. It’s absolutely humbling.
And that “generous hearts” part? I think that means you save the last butter roll for your little brother… ; ) (hi Michael!) My poor brother was often outta luck, however. Eh.
To be honest (as if I’ve not been already?), I do miss my own cooking. I’m not able to cook on my own due to health reasons, and almost nobody cooks like I do. So I’m often trying to appreciate the “hockey puck” burgers or the not-so-well-done this or that (according to my culinary expectations). I am REALLY grateful for any help I can get in the kitchen especially.
But it’s been an interesting challenge to my heart attitudes. “Oh my…I have 12 more servings of _______ to eat before it can be “made right”? Yikes!” is usually my first thought. Then I feel deeply convicted. “Oh Lord, please help me with my attitude of ingratitude. I AM so grateful for the help I’ve received and I want to be grateful for the food as well, so please help me be grateful for the food regardless of taste. I want an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving for ALL that I have received. And while you’re at it, could you soften the hockey pucks with a minor miracle? Thanks!”
…and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Ending Pastor Ray’s sermon from Keep Believing Minnistries, he told a story of a young woman who had Christ as the central focus of her life. She said, “I feel so privileged and blessed by God. I just want to talk to other people about Jesus. I’m praying about becoming a missionary so I can tell others about the Lord. I feel so privileged that I want to share Jesus with everyone I meet.” She used the word “privileged” several times.
….Abby has discovered the very thing Peter was talking about. She realizes how privileged she is know Jesus Christ and she can’t stop talking about it. Whenever your heart is gripped with the enormous privilege of knowing Jesus, we won’t have to tell you to do evangelism. We won’t be able to stop you. Amen.
And we know that God’s Word which goes out through the testimony of the saints as they are lead by the Spirit of God will not return void. IT WILL bring those predestined for salvation to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 55: 10-11 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.