Friday, January 26, 2007

They devoted themselves to...

Here is part 2 in our look at the key ingredients to the success and growth of the early church. Again I want to reiterate that I believe that we will see there, key ingredients that will work for us too. Let me know what you think, I value your comments.
Jim

Acts 2:42-47 "42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

The next basic area the early church devoted itself to was to "fellowship." Now, perhaps there are some who will look at this and think "fellowship." What's the big deal with fellowship? But there is a difference between the fellowship we experience in this day and age and that of the early church. To a large degree, we equate fellowship with that time before and after a church service. You know what I mean, we talk briefly as we run our kids to the nursery or as we look for our usual seat in the sanctuary. "How was your week?" “You gonna watch the big game today." "Can you believe that thunderstorm that blew through here last night?" For the most part it's nothing more than small talk, just a little polite superficial conversation before we find our seat or load into the car. That was not the case with the early church. To the early church, fellowship was a big deal. These folks were family. Oh perhaps not in the literal sense, but figuratively they became family. You see, in those days to become a follower of Christ meant you abandoned the Jewish faith. In many cases, that meant you would be rejected by your own family. In some cases, you were declared dead by your family, to the point of a funeral. When the early church would fellowship, it was far more than superficial conversations. They became family to one another. Their fellowship was a deep and sincere commitment to each other. They needed each other in a very big way. To the early church, fellowship was a big deal so they took it seriously.

Chances are, the thoughts in many of your minds right now are, "But those things are not the case today. We don't face that type of rejection when we put our faith and trust in Christ." I will not dispute you on this. For the most part, you are exactly correct. However, that does not in any way negate the importance of fellowship. To start with, fellowship is not an option, it is a command! That's right, it's commanded. Look at Hebrews 10:25 for a moment, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching." These words are strong enough already, but they are even stronger in language in which they were written. In the Greek, the word for "give up" speaks of desertion and abandonment. Do you get the picture of those strong words? As has always been the case, there are few things that we look down upon more than those who abandon or desert their friends or comrades in their hour of need. So serious is desertion that in many armies today, and throughout history, if you were found to be a deserter, you were put to death. You see, on the battle field, every soldier is important, every soldier! Just one deserter could bring about great defeat. These things hold true in our spiritual life as well. Every believer is important, every believer! Just one deserter can bring about great defeat. We need each other, and fellowship is one of the ways we come along side one another. Fellowship is so much more than just brief conversations before or after church. Fellowship is living life together. It is being there for one another. Praying for one another, holding one another accountable, weeping together, laughing together, studying God's Word together, singing praises together, it is giving and receiving advice and direction. It is spurring one another forward in spiritual growth. If fellowship is carried out to its fullest degree, individual believers grow stronger in their relationship to Jesus Christ. If individual believers grow in their relationship to Jesus Christ, they become more and more effective at living out their Christian life. As this happens, they are better equipped to win their friends, co-workers, family, neighbors…to Christ. "And the Lord (adds) to their number daily those who are being saved."

Increasingly devoted to One-Anothering,

Jim

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