There is a sad misconception in the Christian community today that to be a disciple of Jesus means that they must go to Church, read the Bible a little bit, pray every once in a while, and give their tithes and or offerings and then poof...Heaven. What tears at my heart the most is that there is very little opposition to that theology, from the pulpit. Too many preachers have become satisfied with full seats and bulging offering plates to upset the apple cart.
One day as I was studying the Bible, a thought came to my mind. What was my responsibility as a believer? At first I thought that such a thought was odd. I was called into the ministry as an evangelist...so naturally my responsibility was to evangelize. But then I realized the legitimacy of the question. I wasn't going to be always preaching or teaching. There would be times that I was simply going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. And with that comes a responsibility.
Let's begin with the first Church in Acts Chapter 2. Peter preaches a dynamic message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Verse 41 says that those who believed were baptized and added to the church...a mere three thousand (imagine that baptismal service). Then take a look at what they did. They DEVOTED THEMSELVES TO THE APOSTLES' TEACHINGS AND FELLOWSHIP, THEY SHARED IN THE LORDS SUPPER, AND THEY JOINED EACH OTHER IN PRAYER. Now that seems simple right. I thought the same. We can get together every Sunday and Wednesday, here the Word, have communion occasionally, pray and there you go. That would work if I were one who built a theology on a certain scripture in the Bible. The thing is, we must take the entire Word to build a doctrine. So I dug a little deeper. Look at verses 44-47.
Let us explore each of these things in detail and see what the Word of God has to say about this. I want to paint a complete picture in your minds as to what we as believers are supposed to do. If you are called into the ministry that is wonderful...but always remember that first and foremost that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Before we proceed I would like us to take a look at the word disciple. Many of us when asked what is a disciple would answer along the lines as this, a follower of Jesus. That is a correct answer, but it is only half-correct. I looked up the word disciple in the Webster's Dictionary and it is define as one who believes and follows the teachings of a master and then disseminates those teachings to everyone. Just as a second thought I decided to look up the word disseminate and it was shouting time. The word disseminate is to scatter widely such as sowing seed. How wonderful that definition is. Oh we may believe the teachings of the master but generally, where we fall down on the job, is in the agriculture department. Yes believing is essential but to complete the responsibility of a disciple we have to get the Word out there among the people. Then we are Disciples of Christ. We must be doers of the Word.
Now on to rest of the text:
AND ALL THAT BELIEVED WERE TOGETHER, AND HAD ALL THINGS IN COMMON:
There is much to be said on the subject of unity. We are told since early in our childhood that if we want to accomplish something good then we must work together as a team. We see however, today a swing towards self, which seems to have bled over into the Church. Look around you and you will notice that most things that surround you that are productive, are so because of some form of teamwork.
Many times when you here a message preached, or taught from 1 Corinthians 12, you immediately assume that it is on the gifts of the spirit, and you are generally always correct. The thing is that passage is not on the gifts of the spirit alone. It is on the operation of those gifts in UNITY with the rest of the body. The middle part of that chapter covers it so well using a body to describe the importance of unity. We must all work together for the common good...or the head, which is Jesus.
AND SOLD THEIR POSSESSIONS AND GOODS, AND PARTED THEM TO ALL, AS EVERY MAN
This will get a jolt out of many of us today. I have had people ask me, "do you really believe that they sold their possessions like that." All I can say is, "that is exactly what my Bible tells me that they did, so that means that they must have did just that. Oh, we will test ourselves when it comes to this. There are many preachers today that will tell you that God wants you to have nice things. That may well be a fact, but let me add something to that. God also wants you to be willing to give it all up for Him.
I think of a missionary couple that is from our home church. They are in Mexico and they are doing a tremendous work for the Lord there. They are also in need of a car to further expand their outreach. The problem is that cars aren't free. The question that I asked my body was, "how far are you willing to go to further the kingdom of God?" If we were to do as the first church did, what we would do is start selling our possessions in order to see that the need was met. You would look at my church body and think, wow; here is a church that has it all together. They have wonderful worship services, good preaching, a beautiful building and all seems right with them. On the outside yes, all of this is present. But to know the inside...That couple is still without a car today. Why? The body is only willing to go part way. To go all of the way requires more sacrifice than they are willing to give.
In every church body there are widows in need. There are couples that are struggling and often miss meals. Then there are those that do well. They live in nice homes, drive nice cars and have an abundance of food. Where is the balance? We have forgotten the part about unity in a big way.
AND THEY CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD IN THE TEMPLE:
This truly was an amazing fact. Think about it for a second. These people met everyday at the temple and they remained united. We have a difficult time meeting twice a week without killing each other. I know that is an exaggeration but there is a bit of truth to it also. We complain when the pastor goes long in his sermon. We complain during special services after a week, saying how tired we are.
That is one of the great things about the revival in Brownsville Florida. These guys have had church for four days of the week now for three years nearly. I marvel at how they do this and yet they are even three days a week short of the way that the first New Testament church met. What an awesome thought. Church every day. Unity every day. People happy in the Lord every day.
I know by experience that it is easy to become complacent in the issue of our salvation. One of the first warning signs that this is happening is the importance that we give church attendance. We tell ourselves that we don't have to attend church in order to be a Christian, or we may even convince ourselves that we are strong enough spiritually, so attendance to the church isn't that important. After awhile we may even begin to believe it.
There is one problem with this however. It doesn't line up with the Word of God. There are some that may think that I am being legalistic and that is all right. This must be said.
Hebrews 10: 24-25, tells us specifically, "and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER, as in the manner of some, and SO MUCH MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING." We must assume that this is in the Bible for a reason.
It must be understood that there is a purpose for the Lord establishing the church. There are things that we need that are best conducted in the atmosphere of the local church, established with God's appointed leaders. To walk outside of the local church is to walk away from the encouragement and the support that is necessary to maintain your walk with the Lord, so much more in these obvious last days. When we are together, unified as a body we are able to share our faith and we are able to strengthen one another,
Today, we face so many struggles in a world that is no longer Christian friendly. Everywhere that we look in society, someone is spitting in the very face of God and His Word. It is easy to become so consumed in the cares of the world to the point that it seems to control our every thought, and all of our time. We make a feeble attempt to get out from underneath the weight of the world, yet when we forsake the assembling of the saints we are walking in disobedience to the Word of God and that heaps even more difficulty upon us. We try even harder to dig ourselves out of the mess that we have created and the simple solution is overlooked.
We need to get a grasp on reality. Difficulties should be a reason to go to church; instead we make them an excuse to stay home from church. Think about this for a minute. When you are feeling sick, you stay home. The Bible tells us that the sick among us should have the elders of the church lay hands on us and WE WILL RECOVER. Most of the elders are hanging out at the church, sure enough. It is time for us to realize that we have a doctor who has already treated us free of charge. Our doctor is a healing specialist who doesn't even understand the meaning of cure. He is in the business of complete healing.
We stand up and we testify, praising God that He has supplied us with a job that requires us to work on the day that the saints meet. We may be a little short on money to pay the bills and sure enough the boss offers us a little overtime and we are quick to jump on it, giving credit to God. I want to let you in on something. GOD HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. If he did then He would be contradicting His Word that tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. God is not one to nullify His own words.
This may be a bit tough and I don't want to offend anyone, but please understand what we are doing to ourselves. I understand that there are bills to pay. Maybe the car is near empty and the pantry is looking bare, but it is time to take the baby bottle out of our mouth and begin to trust God to take care of these things. We as saints of the Living God have attempted to do God's job for Him for too long now. It is time for us to step back and allow God to do in our lives what He said that He would do. Matthew Chapter six tells us to not worry about the things that we need. That is what the world does. God knows our needs. He knows how many hairs that you have on your head; I can assure you that He knows how much food is in the pantry. SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AND THEN ALL OF THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED UNTO YOU.
If you think that you telling your boss that you can't work on Sunday because it is the day that your Church meets, is going to get you fired, try it anyway. If the boss fires you, then the Lord is going to step in and say, "I will bless you for taking a stand for my sake." Read what the Word says in Luke 18: 29-30.
It is imperative that we come to a point in our Christian walk, that we place God above all else. Our most important function in life is to worship God. Yes, you can worship God by yourself, but there can be no denying the fact that when you are presence of a church full of folks, praising and worshipping God, the very presence of the Lord will engulf you. The air will be so thick that it gets on you and you just bathe in the glorious presence of God. It will change your life. Knowing that then let me ask you something. Why would you want to be any place else?
I will be bold and say this. If you are working a job that requires you to continuously miss church, quit. Your soul is worth more than a few token dollars that you might make on that day.
The church is a "sheep pen" and there always is going to be wandering sheep. Yes, the shepherd loves you and He will go out and attempt to find you and bring you back to the flock. The problem that the shepherd is faced with today is that the sheep don't learn. He goes out and He finds you. He brings you back and puts you in the flock with the rest of the sheep. It takes no time when all of the sudden the sheep wanders off again on his own. The Bible tells us that the wolf will dress himself in sheep's clothing and make the attempt to get into the flock and seek out members of that flock. The thing is, the shepherd is not easily fooled. As long as we are under the guard of the shepherd we are protected. It is when we venture out on our own that we are in great danger. The shepherd can rescue us time and time again but, sooner or later, if you keep straying away from the flock, the wolf is going to eat you. That my friends is a fact. Oh you can try and get along on your own and you may even succeed for a period of time. But sooner or later you are going to weaken and then you do not have the strength alone to protect yourself. STAY IN THE PEN.
There are many that argue that it doesn't matter what day our Sabbath is as long as we take a day and give it to the Lord. I agree. If you know of a church that has services on the day that you are off work, then you can fellowship with the saints. However, in this country as is the case in most countries the church holds its services on Sunday. That being the case then we need to adjust our schedule to fit that day. We must be obedient to the Word of God. We must be obedient even if it means giving up that much-needed dollar. There are so many ways that the devil tricks us and the Bible clearly points out to us that his main goal is to steal the Word. He will get someone in the world to offer us a few extra dollars and we agree. IT IS THEN THAT SATAN HAS SUCCEEDED IN HIS MAIN GOAL. Once he gets you to take an inch, then he offers you the mile. The next thing that you know the company is paying you double time to work on that Sunday. It is sad that many Christians attribute this to God.
Debt has become Satan's' biggest weapon against God's people. Not only does he have the people on the body covered with a mountain of debt; he also has most of the churches' buried in the same mire. The people in the bodywork that extra overtime then the person pays more tithes and gives a little bit more in the offering plate. The next thing that you know the preacher has become a proponent of the sheep leaving the pen to do their worldly job. HEY GUYS, THE DEVIL HAS US FOOLED. We must loose the debt, both at home and in the church. We must not for any reason be so quick to forsake the fellowship of the saints.
THEY CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD IN HAVING THE LORDS SUPPER:
This may possibly open a can of worms that I would rather not open yet. I have an entire sermon on communion that is wonderful and maybe we will go there soon. I will say this. There are many great men of God who have participated daily in communion, such as Smith Wigglesworth. My wife and I do and I will venture to say that it has changed our lives.
THEY WERE GLAD AND WITH ONE HEART, AND THEY PRAISED GOD:
I think of the times as a Christian that I have prayed. When things are looking pretty rotten I pray. When I feel a mite confused or discouraged I pray. The point is that to often when we need something we go to prayer. WE DON'T PRAISE HIM, JUST BECAUSE HE IS OUR LORD. If the Lord provides us with something that we asked Him for, then we praise him. When we witness a miracle, we praise Him. PRAISE HIM for just being your Father. PRAISE HIM for what He is going to do for you. PRAISE HIM just simply for being your Lord.
THEY HAD FAVOR WITH ALL OF THE PEOPLE:
Can you imagine! Going to work one day and getting a raise, simply because you are a believer and it shows. Going to the car lot and just because there is something about you that is different the dealer gives you that super deal. Having people hold the door open for you, simply because you have a glow around you that demands that respect. This is how it was with the first church. Yes, the religious community persecuted them, but apparently they were held in high favor by the most of the people in the city.
THE LORD ADDED TO THEIR NUMBERS DAILY SUCH AS SHOULD BE SAVED:
As a church, we do not fully realize the importance of the word "growth". The need to grow is vital to the Church because only one of two things can happen to a church. Either you grow and live, or you don't grow and die.
There is a prevailing negativism today that growth isn't a reality for the church. However, it is within the heart and the mind of god, through the Lord Jesus Christ, that the church should and must experience growth. In our attempt to grow, God will bless us.
Local church growth doesn't just happen; there is a beginning. Where? In the minds of the people who really make up the body of the church. The Pastor and the saints. If the local church is to ever grow, then it must first be in the vision of the people. It must be seen by faith, then it will become a reality.
Now here is the trick. After the vision and the decision that you will exercise your faith in this matter comes hard work. The job must be tackled immediately. All of the past failures of the church's growth record must be thrown into that sea of forgetfulness. We have to look up and begin now, setting our mind to the task, for God is on our side and with God we can reach seemingly impossible goals.
In order for this to happen we must overcome several stumbling blocks. Many people are afraid to grow. One of the by-products of growth is change. This will make some people uncomfortable because they are afraid to do things that are different than what they are accustomed to doing. The church needs to continually set goals. When a goal is achieved then new ones must be set. Yes, there will be change in growth. In your natural body there is change with growth and when it is all said and done that change is good. It is the same with the church.
There are some that do not want to grow, afraid that they will loose their position of power if new and dynamic leaders are won to the Kingdom of God and the church. It takes men of vision, men who are not afraid to let God have His way in using all of the members of the body of Christ.
There are those who will not want the "undesirables" darkening the doorsteps of their church. These people are pious and their holier than thou attitude is at best, narrow-minded and can ultimately be devastating to a body.
Growth has to be the desire of the entire congregation, all in unison, with their mouths and their hearts. They must say, "Yes, we want to grow!" If you are someone that believes that your church is already large enough then understand this one fact. REFUSING TO GROW IS CONCEDING TO DIE.
Keep On Praising Jesus