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Devoted




The struggle is real! Life is filled with ups and downs, but God has provided everything we need to live in Christ. One of the things that God has provided for His people is the church. A God-designed church is a tremendous blessing to everyone, not only Christians. Sadly, many examples of churches are far from what God has designed for us. While I am on that, let me remind all of us that it is not about being perfect in our own eyes. God knows precisely how imperfect we are, so He is not surprised by our imperfections. Those imperfections are why we need His grace, mercy, and Spirit to empower us. Only when the church relies solely on God's help can we begin to be what He designed.

                  Acts gives us a glimpse of what the church should be. Luke makes sure that we know that it is because of God's help (Acts 2) that they walked in His power and presence, seeing the lost come to faith in Christ and making disciples. As a Pastor, I am in awe of what Luke tells us about the early church. For instance,

 

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:32-35 NASB).

 

                  The portrait Luke gives of the early church is that of a miracle. Only God could create something so wonderful and empower the people to live in that type of fellowship. While the early church was not without problems, it is what the church should be.

How does the church of today demonstrate God's design? We can't! It is solely up to God. However, there are some things that we must do, as pointed out by Luke, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42 NASB)." The early Christ-followers were "continually devoting themselves" to four things. That means they continued to be devoted when it was not easy or fun. The early church grew in their devotion when it was not popular. They persevered through difficult times and struggles, never giving up on the four things mentioned by Luke. Too many times, we give up when it becomes problematic. We give up too soon, never gathering the fruit from our labor (Galatians 6:9). It is important to note that devotion to God is a must before we can be devoted to the things Luke mentions. Pastors, church leaders, and denominations work diligently to get people devoted to a church or a set of teachings. However, a person will never be committed to the church without devotion to God. Let's briefly look at the four things the early church devoted to.

First is "the apostles teaching." The things the apostles taught were not seven steps to a blessed life. Why? Because there is only one step: faith in Christ! Christ is the subject of the apostle's teaching. The apostles would share about all that Jesus taught and did (Acts 1:1, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). We live in an age where people want to hear some new message, idea, or mystery. However, there is only one message, idea, and mystery: Christ. The message of Christ is the age-old Gospel and hope that we yearn for. The writer of Hebrews put it nicely,

 

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:1-3 NASB)."

 

Christ is the apostle's teaching. The message of Christ is the message we need to hear. The church must return to the only message that matters, the simple message of Christ. The early Christians were satisfied and even hungry to hear more about Jesus. Christ will bring satisfaction to your soul like you have never known. He is enough and more than enough! We must stop looking for some new idea and return to the Gospel's simple truth.

Second, the early believers were devoted to fellowship. Our English language does not appropriately translate the Greek word koinonia. The early church's idea of fellowship was not about a church fellowship hall and fried chicken. For them, fellowship was about sharing, giving, and sacrificing for others. It was about living life together and looking out for the needs of others. These ideas were common in the world of the early church. However, the church was unique in their approach. In their world, one was friends with people like them. Their friends would have generally been of the same socioeconomic class, race, and culture. One would sacrifice for their friends of similar circumstances. The church, however, transcended those lines (Galatians 3, Colossians 3). They would fellowship, look out for the needs of others, and sacrifice for other believers, regardless of race, culture, or financial standing. This type of fellowship was a game-changer. People were amazed at what God was doing in this group of people (Acts 2:47). That type of fellowship would bring the awe factor to those around it today.

Third, "to the breaking of bread." There are multiple ideas about what this means. We do not have time to dissect them here. It would serve us best to combine the main ideas. The early church shared meals daily (Acts 2:46). Undoubtedly, this was a significant characteristic of the church. Those meals were essential to all of them because they were together, but most importantly, because of the presence of the Lord. The early church always left room for the Lord. That means that they always left room for The Lord's Supper. Through the Eucharist, they would encounter Christ. They anticipated the arrival of Christ at these meals. These daily meals were a time of fellowship, worship, unification, and other things. Significantly, the reason that the early church experienced such a unique fellowship, or common life, is because they shared a common life in Christ.

Finally, the early church was devoted to "prayer." Prayer was vital to them. This type of prayer was not just personal, private prayer. They prayed in the Temple (Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1), and they prayed together in the houses they broke bread in (Acts 2:46). They were people of prayer. It was through prayer that they could commune with Christ. Their prayer time was not just rattling off a bunch of requests but spending time with Him. Today, most of our prayers are requests, which are usually inwardly focused and selfish (James 4:3). Christ should be the focus of everything we do, including prayer.

While I have not done justice to any of these topics, I hope we can all see the importance of each one. Those early Christians devoted themselves to them, and God accomplished the rest.

 

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(Acts 2:43-47 NASB)

 

Let's devote ourselves!

 

Devoted to Christ,

Pastor Josh May

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