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Gospel Shaped Community

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

SERMON POWERPOINT

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Acts 2

Gospel Shaped Community

Last week we asked and answered the question, “What is the gospel?”  What is the Good News of Jesus Christ?

To help answer that question, we read two sermons by the Apostle Peter given in those first few months after the birth of Christianity.

Today I want to ask another question:

“What is the church?”

Can we define it?  Explain it?  Is church a building?  Is church a meeting in a building at 10:00 on Sundays?

What is the essence of the church?

Almost 42 years ago, I was brand new to the Christian faith.  I had embraced Jesus Christ and the gospel message, and so became a member of God’s family.  But I knew almost nothing else about the Bible.

A month later I met up with this church.  They were not meeting in a traditional building, but on the ISU campus in MacKay Auditorium.  They met on Friday nights and Sunday nights.  I loved it.  I was growing and learning about my new faith.

But I didn’t think of it as “church” because of when and where they met.  So I wanted to add in “church”, that is, people who met in a building on a Sunday morning.  But then my friend Stu said, “Well, church is about people, not a building.”

He was spot on.  Now, admittedly, “church” needs a fuller definition than that.  But my friend was aiming at the center of the target.  The church, at its center, is people.

We are in Week 4 of a sermon series going through a book called “Acts.”  It means, “the acts (or the deeds) of the apostles.” 

Acts is a historical narrative that recounts some key people and events in the 30 years following Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Today we are going to read a brief passage that points us in the direction of answering, “What is the Church, what should it be doing, and what should it look like?

Acts 2 

Turn to Acts 2.  We will read this in a minute.

The NT was written in Greek, and the Greek word used for “church” is ek-lay-SEE-uh (ekklesia), and it means “an assembly of people.”  A gathering of people.

So to define “the church” as a group of people gets us started, but we need more details. 

Whatever those details are, the entire NT is clear: 

The church is so central to true Christianity that to call oneself a Christian and yet not actively participate in the life of a local church is simply incongruous. 

When we believe in Jesus Christ, God adopts us as his children, which makes us part of his family. 

So an isolated Christian is like an orphan and is simply not living out the fullness of his/her faith in Christ. 

The NT doesn’t give us a succinct, one line definition to the church.  We gather a definition from the entire NT.

So let me give us a working definition.  A very, very simple one.

The church is God’s people, believers in his Son, Jesus, and they gather together as a family to do the will of Christ. 

That is just a framework, telling us WHAT the church is.  But what does the church DO?  What should it BE like and ACT like?

Acts 2

Let’s start answering that in Acts 2.

Start in vs. 37.  Last week we read all of Peter’s sermon, preaching to all the Jews about Jesus, their Messiah.

Here is the end of that sermon.

Vs. 37-41

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

So Peter had preached about Jesus. 

  • That he lived, died, rose again, ascended into heaven.
  • That he’s coming back to earth again to restore everything.
  • And Peter isn’t shy about telling the people that they were complicit in the murder of Jesus.

The response of the people in vs. 37 is beautiful.  Humbly they ask, “What shall we do?”

Peter tells them to repent of their evil ways, turn to Jesus to find forgiveness, and so receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Vs. 41

Verse 41 describes the outcome.

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

An astonishing turn of events.  Since Jesus’ resurrection 50 days earlier, only 120 people have been willing to identify with Jesus.

I would guess that most other people were afraid to identify with Christ, for if he was killed, they could be, too. 

Now 3,000 more people believed.  The church grew from 120 to 3,120 in one day!

The first mega church!!  The first revival.  An astonishing day!

So what did these 3,120 new Christians do?  What changed?  How did they live?

We get the first glimpse into the church in vs. 42.

Vs. 42-47

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.

I have read this passage literally hundreds of times, so it is not new to me.

But when I was reading it a week ago, it seemed brand new.  The description of this first church left me speechless.

Something radical was going on.

This brand new church of Jesus Christ has a deep spirituality that creates a longing in me.  I want more of what they have.

I will say I have experienced much of this over my 42 years as a Christian here at Stonebrook.

I’ve experienced it.  And I know many of you have as well.

In fact, I can look around our church family and see much of this kind of fruitful living here even today. 

I am proud of so many of you.

Yet I wonder, is there more for us?

More joy and gladness.  Greater generosity and devotion.  Richer unity.

Is there more for us?

For some of  us today, we might be tempted to think that being with fellow believers once or maybe twice a week is a lot.

We might think that giving a little money here or there is adequate.

We might think that Christianity is a nice add-on to our busy lives and our schedules… but it’s not everything. 

We might think, “You know, the convenience of watching a worship service at home is too nice to give up.  Maybe I’ll do this all the time.”

These 3,120 people were together day by day.

These 3,120 people sold possessions and belongings to provide for the poorer among them.

These 3,120 people broke bread, prayed, heard God’s Word taught constantly.

These 3,120 people had great joy and generosity.

They met as a large group.  They met in homes. 

And the church continued to grow.  Every day more people were being saved and ushered into God’s eternal family.

Back to our question, “What is the church?”, we are beginning to get a picture of it.

This wasn’t something they attended.  This was something they lived.  This was their joy.  This was their gladness. 

I want to know, “How do I get there?  How do we get there?”

Last week I was reading about a people group in a country in south central Asia.  This people group is intensely loyal to one another.  The group, not the individual, is celebrated.  They will staunchly defend one another and support one another. 

It made me think of the Christians here in Acts 2. 

But one quality of this group in Asia is rather disturbing:  They view their community as superior to all other people groups. 

And if anyone outside their community speaks against one of the members or hurts them, the group will bring vengeance on those people, even to the point of murdering them.

I was struck by the contrast here and elsewhere in the NT. 

The church ought to have a similar loyalty and devotion, but it should never view itself as superior. 

In fact, the gospel as a message of grace compels us to a humility and brokenness before God.

This church’s devotion to one another is the fruit that springs forth from the root of a devotion to Jesus Christ.

So at its center the church had a devotion to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who rose from dead and is now seated at God’s right hand with all power and authority…the Savior who loves them deeply and has called them to be his people. 

In gratitude and obedience to Jesus, these Christians are then to reach out to one another and to the world with the same love and mercy that Jesus has shown to them.  Serving, giving, and caring for people both inside and outside their community. 

Basically we could say that this community of believers were shaped by the gospel of Christ.

READ VS. 42-47 AGAIN.

Let’s read vs. 42-47 again.  Slowly.  May God sink it into our hearts.  May we be impacted by the power and faith and joy of these new Christians. 

Vs. 42-47

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.

I want more of what they had. 

This section doesn’t fully tell us what the church is.

But it does shed some light on the activity of the church.  The lifestyle of the church.  The heartbeat of the church.

Application

I want to ask another question:

Do we want what this church had?  Can we obtain it?  How did they obtain it?

We may have objections, at first. 

“Well, miracles don’t happen like they did back then.”

True.  Those were some unique times to establish this New Covenant of Jesus Christ.

And admittedly, there surely was a freshness and joy in this newfound faith.  Jesus Christ had just risen from the dead.

All of Israel’s hopes in the promises of God over centuries had been fulfilled before their eyes.

So some things are different.

And we don’t know precisely what a daily schedule for them looked like.

Was everyone meeting every day?  Or many of them many days?

I assume they had jobs, had to buy food at the market, had sick children, had to repair homes after a storm. 

So some things are different.  And some things are unknown. 

But I hope we don’t dismiss Acts 2 with objections.

I hope it stirs up in us a longing for more.

More joy.

More awe of God.

More devotion to one another in this Christ-inspired community. 

More devotion to the practices of the faith TOGETHER.

Do we want this kind of community?   Do we want more of this kind of generosity, even willing to sell possessions to ensure that others in the church are not in want?

We’re climbing up the mountain of the gospel, climbing in our understanding and confidence in the love of Christ.  As we climb, the view keeps getting better and better.  But we’re not at the summit yet.  There is a better view ahead. 

Let’s us…together…seek more of what this first church had.

Application

Let me offer two simple but important applications on how we can seek and find more.  How we can experience more of what this church in Acts 2 had. 

We need to water and fertilize the root of our soul.  And that root is our love for and closeness to Jesus. 

So first, let us…

  1. Keep Jesus and the gospel center.  Together.

To have the kind of life that this 1st century church did is not based on personality or society.

It is grounded upon a rich relationship with Christ, and a firm confidence in all that he has done for us.

There is no shortcut.  There is no Easy Button.

We simply need to draw nearer to Christ.  Together.  Not alone.  Not independent. 

The great men and women of God in the Bible and in history since then have had a growing, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.  They had problems and trials like we do.  They sinned and had weaknesses like we do.

They had families and jobs and illnesses and natural disasters like we do.

But they were attached to the Vine.

Jesus said in John 15:5,  “Like a branch attaches itself to the vine, so attach yourself to me.  Abide in me.  There is no fruit apart from me.”   

The branches cut off from the storm 6 days ago are lying next to our street…. And they are dying.  They are shriveling up. 

If we as a church want what they had 2000 years ago, we simply have to be focused on knowing Jesus Christ.  TOGETHER. 

Through the music we sing, breaking bread, listening to a sermon, studying the Bible, prayer.  Biblical fellowship. 

Let us seek to know the Lord and love him more.  Together. 

Let us seek to understand the beauty of our salvation.  Together.

Let us rejoice that we have peace with God through Christ.  Together.  

Let us be like in Romans 12:2, “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”  Together.

Let me offer a few suggestions on how we can do this.  Together.

  • Read the NT daily.  Read it with your household.  Read it in Community Group.

Simply, the Scriptures is our truth source.  Our power source.

One suggestion:  In my early years, I would read two of Paul’s epistles, and then one of the gospels.  And I kept rotating that for some years.  Occasionally I would read other places in the Bible, but I wanted the gospel to become my foundation. 

  • Simply pray and ask the Lord for a greater intimacy with him, and a greater understanding of the gospel.  Pray, and he will answer.   Pray for understanding.  Pray for a confidence in the Word.  Pray for the courage to act on what we read and hear.

Simply, we need to pay more attention to the Scriptures.  This is our life.

We can’t be sloppy or lazy about the Scriptures.

  • Go to every gathering of the church with prayerful expectation. 

Prepare your heart.

Determine not to let it become a mindless ritual.

For example, before you came here this morning or turned on your computer at home, did you seek God’s help for your household and the rest of us?

Did you ask him to work in power and truth and grace?

What would God do every time we gather if we would simply pray to him?

In all these things, will we earnestly go after a nearness to the Lord, to abide in him like a branch attaches itself to the Vine?

A second application: 

  • Commit to one another freshly.  Together.

Many of us at Stonebrook are already devoted and loyal to one another.  So I applaud you.  I do.

Others of us may fight independence like me. 

For all of us, though, let us ask God for a fresh inter-dependence.  Pray for this.  Don’t seek this on your own. 

Perhaps you’ve tried to be devoted, but it’s not felt reciprocal.  And you’re tired and perhaps feel even a little burned.  This can happen in the home between husband and wife.  It can happen in our Community Groups. 

Let me offer a few suggestions:

  • Pray this, even today:  “Lord, am I giving my all to your people?  Or am I holding back in any way?”

Perhaps I am  inhibited in fellowship by unforgiveness.

Maybe I need to ask for forgiveness from someone else I have hurt.

Maybe I need to grant forgiveness to someone who has hurt me.

  • Consider having an open conversation about your commitment to the fellowship.

Talk honestly with your wife or roommates or your Community Group friends:  Am I devoted to others?  Am I or are we holding back?

  • Repent of independence.

How easy it is for me to say, “I’ll do this myself.”  I have a very independent streak in me.  But that independence can throttle rich, biblical fellowship.

  • Repent of busyness.

I understand life does get crazy at times, and sometimes beyond our control.

But often we have set ourselves up in choices and situations that limit our availability.  And it’s hurting the Body of Christ.  It’s hindering the gospel.

  • Join a Community Group.  Or freshly recommit your heart to the one you are in.

Community Groups are much more difficult to navigate in these days of COVID.

But we have to figure it out. 

Let’s start our ministry year out freshly.

Let us all seek after a fresh commitment with others at Stonebrook, especially in our Community Groups.

Summary

So in summary:

What is the church?  The church is the people of God, believers in Jesus Christ, who gather together as a family to live out the purposes of God.

Jesus Christ is at the center of all the church is and does.  He is the Lifeline of the Church.

He is the Living Water.  Bread of Life.  Good Shepherd.  The Resurrection and the Life.

And in Acts, we get the first taste of what the church did.  And how they lived.

With a joy in their salvation.

With gratitude for eternal life.

With humility at the kindness of God to save sinners.