Acts 2:42 to 47 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Negative experiences don’t have to define us!
Nic Vujicic: “I hope you know you’re capable & brave & significant even when it feels like you’re not.”
Everyday experiences affect us. These current times have impacted some significantly more than others, causing some people great stress. There is stress enough to rob some of us of our sense of self-worth; to create within a feeling of ongoing discouragement. For others, they have found ways to cope.
Experiences can profoundly affect and even change us - positively or negatively. The change depends on our attitude, our responses, and our perspectives.
As a young girl of eight, Palme Williams was in a terrible car accident, that paralyzed her from the waist down. Palme struggled and continues to struggle to adapt to the challenges of her new life. These challenges have not defined her. Her mother told her: “Our responsibilities to ourselves and others don’t change.” These words might seem harsh, but there is a liberating truth within. Although the methods changed, “I could still take on my share of responsibilities.” Methods change, principles never do.
At nineteen, Palme traveled to several places in the world to offer help to others. One trip she made was to South Africa to help AIDS orphans. More than 1/3 of the population in KwaZulu had the virus. There she fed babies, rocked them to sleep, prayed by their bedside, and gave out medications.
One particular moment she shared happened after her wheelchair got stuck in the mud: “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw people running toward me. Children, some older ones, some younger. Two of the oldest grabbed the handles and the others pushed me forward. The wheels came free.”
“The kids shouted with delight.
“Thank you!” I said, “Aren’t you sweet?!”
The children laughed. “You help us,” one of the older boys said. “We help you.”
You help us. We help you. That echoed in my ears all day.”
You can read Palme Williams story in Guidepost.
Whatever the situation, one thing is certain; experiences will impact us.
So, in the midst of challenging experiences, let's suggest some positive experiences:
The beginning times for the early church were both exhilarating and challenging. People were so excited to come to know the risen Saviour/Messiah. The news was contagious for those open and ready to receive. To those living under the yoke of oppression, this new relationship with God brought a sustaining hope. The early Christians stopped merely existing and started growing in their faith and maturity despite their difficult circumstances.
The Bible reading from Acts 2 gives a pattern of important experiences for the church for personal and collective growth.
If you want to get into great shape physically, you can't just sit back and watch people do those difficult exercises and expect personal positive results. One fellow wrote a bad review about the Peloton App. He stated that after watching the workouts for six months, he had gained weight. Notice the word “watching”. How do you feel after watching a grueling sports event? Do you feel 10 pounds lighter because of the athletes' hard work? It doesn't work that way! We must participate. For the app to work, we must work!
Palme had responsibilities to herself and to others. After the accident, she had to build her upper body strength to compensate for her legs. “I needed to pull myself up, even from the floor, to sit in my wheelchair.”
So it is for believers. There are certain experiences we must participate in to grow.
The book of Acts gives us experiential teaching about the church through what they experienced, how they adapted, how they trusted, and how it helped them grow.
The church began through prayer, but amazingly it was teaching and preaching that brought forth growth of Christians, both numerically and spiritually.
LEARNING FROM GOD'S WORD
Only after Peter preached his simple message were 3,000 people saved. Only after the crowd heard Peter speak did they start asking important questions, questions like; "Who is this Jesus?" and "What must I do to be saved?"
Continually through the book of Acts this pattern is followed: God's word is taught and preached, and people's lives are changed, changed because they are instructed, challenged, taught, strengthened, encouraged, and equipped. This occurred through preaching and teaching to crowds, to smaller house groups, through teaching and sharing in synagogues, at home churches and in small groups.
(This fall our church will be encouraging more cell/small groups Bible studies). These types of groups are a vital means of communicating the Bible and are important for individual learning and growth.
Some simple benefits of small groups:
1. We can talk and share more
2. We can connect with others who may have similar problems
3. We can encourage one another
4. There is a higher level of accountability
5. We can pray specifically for each other
6. We can develop meaningful friendships.
The early church grew in numbers and maturity. Not only did the church grow back then, but it continues to grow today.
When the destruction of Jerusalem took place, the church, like others, thought their end was in sight. The church would scatter. Friends and family would be separated. But through this scattering, the church and the message spread out all over, from Egypt to Rome.
People continued to meet, in homes and in other locations. They continued to preach, to teach the Bible. Pastors and laity alike preached and taught and instructed through Sunday School, women's and men’s ministries, community care ministries, home visits, helping ministries, and cell groups. Through all these means they continued to spread the Word of the living God.
The apostle Paul understood the importance of preaching and teaching. In the city of Corinth, he held evangelistic services for 18 months. When he went into Ephesus, he rented a local hall, and from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for two years he preached and taught. While Paul was there, in two years he preached and taught for some 25,000 hours.
The point is this, Paul knew the importance of preaching and teaching the Word. God continues to bless us and others through the teaching of His Word.
Sharing Relationally With Each Other
Then we see how they were (Vs. 42) devoted to both teaching and fellowship.
(Verses 42, 44, 45, 46, 47).
I have heard heartwarming stories in this last while, of people helping one another in so many ways. Keeping in touch creatively. Showing love and concern.
Let me state this: The Church has not stopped being the Church.
“Just to be clear, the Church has not been closed - so it doesn’t need to be re-opened. We have simply stopped worshipping in our buildings for a time, to protect the health and well-being of our people and our communities. The Church does not require a building to be the Church. What is required is love, compassion, and the presence of God.”
People continue to show love and compassion in so many ways, including by calling and listening: The means of good communication are at our very fingertips. We are the most connected generation ever, yet people do not feel heard or listened to.
We must slow down and really listen, to understand what people are trying to say. We don’t listen just to prepare a response to what they say. We don’t listen just to share our judgments, opinions, and attitudes. People feel valued when they are heard and understood.
Listening is being generous with our time, talents, resources, voice, and ears. When someone shares their time, resources, energy we feel love and appreciated.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world He gave…”
God calls us to give of ourselves; to Him first - then to others.
Let me repeat:
The Church does not require a building to be the Church. What is required is love, compassion, and the presence of God.”
So, if we choose, nothing can stop us from being the Church, from caring and encouraging each other.
The English word “encourage” comes from an old French word meaning “to make strong”. Everyone is carrying a burden. Just because some carry their problems well, it does not mean that their burdens aren't heavy.
Encouragement gives people strength. It makes them stronger. We need to continue to do and to say things, to bring others courage and strength.
A Vibrant Relationship with God
Let me read again Vs 42 43, 46: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles… praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.”
In the book of Acts, we see God’s presence and work among the people.
It is no different today. Christianity is not about following rules or trying to please a remote, distant, uncaring God/creator. He is available just as much now as He ever was. Christianity is about receiving God’s free gift and having a close connection/relationship with Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
You see - God is for us, not against us.
He is a perfect Father, not waiting for us to mess up, but waiting with open arms to accept us, just as we are.
Jesus stated in Matthew 7:9-11: “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
God wants us to trust Him and trust His plans for us.
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
If you want to have God’s power helping you, you must have a vibrant connection/relationship with Him.
C.S. Lewis had a creative way of saying this: “Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by an infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life... you must get close to, or even into the person that has them (God/Jesus) …They (God) are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. And if you are close to it, the spray will get you wet. If you are not, you will remain dry.” So, draw near to God.
James 4:8 “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
God is here today, As certain as the air I breathe, As certain as the morning sun that rises. And if you listen You will hear
His song of love
The most powerful Being ever, loves us personally. Try to wrap your head around that.
Romans 8:39 nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”