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The Start of Something New
FBC State of the Union 2017: What’s the Holy Spirit doing in the Church? Acts 2:42-47
We live in a time of dramatic change. Most people in the US carry computers around in our pockets. Crime is being predicted before it occurs. Workplaces are outsourced, independent and often at home. Internet is reaching the poorest people on the planet. Seafood will now be mostly farmed in the oceans instead of fished.
3D printing will become the norm. There will be an increased reaction of the population toward protecting our police. Recreational drugs will increase. Online education will surpass conventional colleges. None of this shocks us–we almost know intrinsically that it all will happen.
But there was one event that no one saw coming except for the sovereign Lord of the universe. No one could accurately predict this coming trend. It was so radical, it was beyond everyone’s comprehension. Jesus predicted the start of something new in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
Did you see it? “I will [future tense, sometime soon] build My church”–it’s going to happen. God’s redemptive plan will transition from Israel as a nation to a called-out group from every nation.
Jump ahead about one year later to Acts chapter 2–Jesus has already been crucified, died, buried, resurrected from the dead and ascended into Heaven. And now Christ will start something new–He will birth His Church. Acts 2 marks a big change in God’s dealings with humankind.
God had been working through Israel–now God will work through the Church. God had been working through the Jews, now He will work through all nations. God’s focus had been upon one nation, now He will work with His children worldwide. Do you recall what is about to change?
In chapter 1, the disciples were waiting for the Holy Spirit–in chapter 2, He comes.
In chapter 1, the disciples were equipped–in chapter 2, they’re empowered.
In chapter 1, they were held back–in chapter 2, they are sent forth.
In chapter 1, the Savior ascended–in chapter 2, the Spirit descends.
All the promises given in chapter 1 come to fulfillment in chapter two. Chapter two begins at Pentecost, meaning 50 days since Passover. Jesus died for sin, rose from the dead, ministered for 40 days, ascended into Heaven, and now ten days later it is Pentecost, celebrating the harvest, remembering God giving the law 50 days after delivering His people from Egypt.
Next is Passover, the largest feast of the year. This occurs in late May, early June, when the Jewish people offer the firstfruits of their harvest to God in hope of more to come. Suddenly, like a hot air balloon roaring forty feet above your house, there is a continuous sound like a violent wind, and the 120 disciples who have been praying are supernaturally baptized with God’s Spirit, making them into one body of believers.
First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” At that moment, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Church was born.
Some of them, probably the twelve, begin to speak in known languages not their own. And, not merely a recognizable language, but Luke uses the term dialecto, meaning they spoke the exact twang or accent of their own specific region. They were not only hearing English, but southern English with a Chattanooga, Tennessee twang.
And hearing them speak of the mighty works of God in their own language from around the world in the exact twang of their hometown–this caught everyone’s attention in Jerusalem, since these men were all simple Galileans. As everyone in Jerusalem is drawn to this event in verses 1 to 13, Peter stands up in their midst and preaches a clear and pointed Gospel message, proclaiming Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah in verses 14 to 41.
Peter didn’t say, “Just accept Jesus in your heart or confess your sin and you’re in.” With boldness, Peter taught them straight from God’s Word about Jesus Christ. He taught about the life of Christ in verse 22. “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.”
Peter proclaimed the predetermined death of Christ in verse 23, “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Then clearly declared the resurrection and ascension of Christ in verse 24, “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
Then Peter gave biblical evidence and eyewitness evidence of Christ’s resurrection, ascension and authority as Lord of all in verses 25 to 35. Finally, Peter exhorted them to respond–not pray a prayer, but commit your life to Christ. Verse 36, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Thousands in the crowd responded with desperation—“What shall we do?” And Peter answers in verse 38, “Repent and show your repentance is real by being baptized.” Peter continued to exhort and testify to them to be saved in verse 40. The result in verse 41, three thousand people we born again. The first church started with at least 3120.
The plan of God is for every believer to belong to a church. When you were born again, you were immersed in Christ and in His Church. You’re now a part of a community that functions together as Christ’s body in this world. There is no such thing as a churchless Christian–every true believer is literally immersed in the Body of Christ, which makes any genuine believer who might try to remain outside and not interconnect to a local church a fish out of water.
You ask, “Chris, why are we talking about this?” Because today, I want to give you the State of the Union–how are we doing and where are we going as a church? And we will use the birth of the Church as a springboard to talk about FBC. I will be sharing this morning, a report from the elders, the fathers of this flock, about our family–what’s happening and where we are headed?
Belonging to this church is a unique experience. FBC is far from the perfect church. Why do I know that? You’re here–and so am I. But there are some distinctives which make this church attractive to some, and also a difficult pill for others to swallow.
FBC is not unusual in our commitment to . . .
The exposition of Scripture, seeking only the one correct interpretation of each text by studying the language, grammar, context, culture and history of each passage, to draw out the author’s single intended meaning. Maybe not prevalent, but other churches hold that view. Nor are we unique in our passion for the Bible as our solo authority, which we seek to uphold in grace and truth.
Men minister to men, women minister to women, and couples minister to couples . . . to uphold a one heart one mind membership . . . to practice loving restoration by church discipline . . . to maintain our passion for biblical marriage and biblical parenting . . . to seek to grow in genuine fellowship and functioning community . . . to uphold our belief that men lead their homes and lead the church . . . to rely on sound doctrine and the Gospel itself every single day.
FBC is somewhat unique in our commitment to . . .
Being led by elders who seek to determine the one will of Christ for His church through a plurality of men who each uniquely function according to their gifts.
Discipleship at every age level, student and adult, along with our pursuit to raise up the next generation.
God’s grace in everything as we seek to live dependently upon the Spirit of God in obedience to the Word of God.
Taking seriously the command to train faithful men in our church, who will be able to train others also through community groups, men of the Word, the training center and more.
We continue to be lay-led and lay-run, emphasizing the priority of marriage for the health of families and this local church.
Change is a part of a healthy Christian and a healthy church, creating an environment where we can try new things, like an ice cream truck.
Enjoying a fellowship where we take God seriously but do not take ourselves seriously, as we see ourselves as flawed/imperfect people who love each other anyway.
Continually proclaim the message of salvation and sanctification in all we do . . . and we could add many more.
So FBC is like a lot of good churches–but like all churches, we are also unique. But when it comes to the Word of God, we want to pursue what God says we should be like. Now the Early Church, especially in Acts 2, is unique–they were under the apostles. They experienced the unique signs and instruction of the apostles.
FBC is more like Antioch than the Early Church, but there are truths we can apply. But in just 98 words in Acts 2, Luke describes the first church. As we look at these qualities, compare yourself and compare us. As we do, I will also describe what your elders see as areas of strength and weakness–along with dreams and desires for the future.
The true Church (and a true Christian) is . . .
#1 A SAVED Church–What is a saved church?
It is a church that is characterized by people who gladly welcome the Word of God. Verse 41 says, “So then, those who had received his word,”–to receive means to gladly welcome and accept. Make no mistake friends, true churches and true Christians don’t fight the Word of God, they don’t excuse obeying it, they don’t ignore it–they passionately seek to live it, to receive the Word.
A saved Church is filled with those who publicly identify with Christ and His Church through baptism. Verse 41 adds, “They were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” True churches are filled with people who will publicly confess Christ through the waters of baptism.
They understand Matthew 10:32 and 33, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” A saved church has a core of people who remain steadfast in the faith.
Verse 42 adds, “And they were continually devoting themselves.” Literally, they were all continually putting all their strength into their faith. They consistently sought to get straight A’s in Christianity. They wanted to please the One who had saved them. Friends, what makes this church an awesome place? People who are saved–the church is to be the gathering of the saved.
You ask, “Chris, are you saying we don’t welcome unbelievers here?” Absolutely not–unbelievers are welcome to hear the Word of God and learn about Jesus Christ. But the fellowship, ministry and the work of the Church is to be done by the redeemed. But a true church is also . . .
#2 A TEACHING/Studying Church
Verse 42 says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” Don’t be fooled by the imitation church. Friends, a Spirit-filled church is a body of people who hunger to learn doctrine. Like 1 Peter 2:2 describes, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”
And the true church invests incredible effort in teaching, feeding and leading the body with the Word of God Sunday, midweek, seminars, like Titus 1:9 says, true elders are those who are, “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
They were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, but they still needed to teach and learn doctrine and true Christians devote themselves to learning the whole Bible. One of the major reasons we want to be able to grow spiritually and numerically is as elders we want others to hear God’s Word as written. (If it has meant a lot to you, it will also mean a lot to others.)
Part of the reason we want to start an evening service, with a couple of trial runs this year and possibly a long term service in the fall of 2018 is, as we teach expositionally, there are certain key areas which are not covered in depth. How many where here for Ephesians 5 on marriage? How many were here for 1 Peter 3 on marriage?
Many of you have not heard God’s Word on the roles of men and women, working wives, or headship or spanking. Some have not heard God’s Word on charismatic gifts or divorce or church discipline. We can use special services to equip you on gender issues and the latest doctrinal attacks.
We need another service just to continue to equip those who are new with us and for special evenings like missions night. You have got to be thankful for the faithfulness of Pat Wilkes and Layne Higgins and all those who work in our children’s ministry, as we see more and more children being effectively taught God’s Word. We desire to be a teaching church—and a true Christian and a true church is . . .
#3 A FELLOWSHIPPING Church
Verse 42 adds, “They devoted themselves to fellowship.” Fellowship is not red punch and stale cookies, nor is it coffee and donut holes. Fellowship is not talking about last night’s game or catching up on how we feel. Fellowship is literally sharing what we have in common—it means to give Christ to each other, with our words, touch, actions and possessions.
Fellowship is when we are so full of Christ, He leaks out of us onto each other as we talk, serve and give to each other. I hope you are as thankful as I am, that as a church we work at fellowship. Picnics, baptisms, events and beach trips where lunch or dinner is provided are not merely to help moms with little kids—they are to provide maximum fellowship.
Fellowship also includes our service to each other. One of the main concerns of your elders is for each person in ministry to replace themselves. If right now you died, would someone be ready to replace you? If not, then this year, start working on it. I am. The elders talked a lot about what happens if Chris dies.
We have men ready to step up to the plate in a variety of ways–you should too. I’m thankful for men like Chris Bauer and the set-up crew, people on the patio like the Holzers who serve coffee, Annette who duplicates sermon CD’s, John and Jan, Wayne and Konnie . . .plus a church and all true believers are to be.
#4 A Christ-CENTERED Church
Verse 42 adds, “They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread.” They loved remembering what Jesus did for them, so they came together to enjoy communion, the Lord’s Table. They loved communing with the Lord and each other the way Jesus designed, with the bread and the cup.
They never wanted to forget the sacrifice Christ made for them, that they could never do for themselves. That God saves sinners. Christ-centered always means come to Christ, become like Christ, go home to Christ, love Christ first above all. Plus they were . . .
#5 A PRAYING Church
Verse 42 adds, “They devoted themselves to prayer.” Not only did they love talking to each other, but they loved talking with the Lord together in prayer. As elders, we want to grow in this area. We are going to be more definitive in prayer, even asking the men of our church to lead us in prayer in our services for the next season.
As the elders prayed recently, we prayed for future elders and deacons. We identified men to keep our eyes on as future elders and identified about seven men who could be potential future deacons. We continue to pray that as elders we don’t mess up our church. We are not perfect–we make mistakes, but always seek to honor Christ above ourselves.
We are praying to continue to grow healthy and numerically for people to hear God’s Word and get saved. Along with additional services, later we hope to still plant more churches in this region–south Temecula and even Hemet. Our parking plan is our first step, then an evening service in fall 2018 and possibly a Saturday night service near the property in fall 2019. The building—October of 2020, if not sooner? As a result of these commitments, the Early Church was . . .
#6 A Church where God’s WORK was seen
Verse 43 continues with, “And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” The Early Church expected God to work, and He did. They were all filled with an overwhelming sense of the great awesomeness of God. They had not lost their moment-by-moment, “Wow, God is incredible!”
Awe is, they feared Him (phobos). And to add to their wonder, the apostles were performing signs like healing the lame, lepers, paralyzed, even raising the dead–which all pointed to Christ. These signs belonged uniquely to the apostles–those signs ceased once the apostles went home.
A miracle isn’t when a car misses your child playing in the street—no, that’s loving providence. A miracle is when God sticks His finger in the natural world and makes waves. It’s a supernatural action, changing the natural world in some way. Don’t be afraid of the miracles, friends, before the Bible was written–the apostles were uniquely given power to do miracles, in order to confirm that the Word they preached was the words and power of Christ alone. God still heals today, but not through healers.
And we see His power all the time, when He transforms a life–that is a miracle! The Word of God brings salvation and sanctification, all evidence of His power. When marriages are healed, homes are mended, prayers are answered and so much more. This year we’ve seen homes restored, men and women come to faith. That is a church where God’s work is seen. A true church and all Christians make up . . .
#7 A GIVING Church
Read verses 44 to 46, “And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together.”
This is not communism, nor communal living. The Greek verbs, selling and sharing, make it clear at no time did they ever sell all they had and pool their funds. Rather, when someone had a need, another individual would voluntarily sell something to supply that need. The first Christians acknowledged Jesus owns both them and their property, so they met each other’s needs by selling off their property and opening up their homes as meeting places for fellow Christians.
Understand their situation–these were people from all over the known world. They had not returned home. So the local believers housed them for as long as they could stay. The first church gathered daily in the temple for praise, prayer and the Word—and they shared meals together while enjoying biblical discussions. So they gave whatever was necessary to keep the church functioning together–money was secondary to participating in the community of Christ.
You, too, are a giving church. And now, as we are about to build–Lord willing, the building has not turned the heart of your elders self-centered. Just this last year and this month, the Lord moved us to give $10,000 to Germany for a church building, $10,000 to Albania for a church building, $6,000 which was doubled to $12,000 in Uganda for a pastoral training center. As leaders, we refuse to be selfish with His resources–but we are also trusting the Lord to provide through His people.
We are asking you this morning and next week to pray about giving specifically to the building monthly, over and above your regular giving. To dig deep, so we might have enough to get this facility up in three years or less. I’ve been thinking radical–if I gave my retirement, and sixteen others did the same, we could pay the building off, start phase two right off, and solve a lot. Crazy, but I always want to be considering what God wants of me. The Early Church was also . . .
#8 A Joyful, GENUINE heart-driven Church
Verse 46 adds, “With gladness and sincerity of heart.” The word gladness is so weak. Friends, these Early-Churchers were exulting in exuberant joy. Gladness is from the root word, to rejoice greatly with great joy. When you came in contact with this group, there were no prune-faced, pickle-hearts marinated in dead tradition and personal preferences–they were joyful!
And they were genuine–the word is simplicity or smooth. Their hearts were without the rocks of false motives and personal agendas. They were genuine, soft and honest. I have said and still say, our church is filled with more people I could vacation with. I could not be more grateful for the people of this church family. They are the most genuine, heart-driven group of believers I have ever known. Plus, a true gathering of Christians is . . .
#9 A WORSHIPPING Church
Verse 47 adds that, “they were praising God.” They loved to praise God, and friends, if you think the praise of the first church was subdued, think again. Look at how this word praise (used eight times in the New Testament) is used.
Luke 19:37, “And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen.” Acts 3:8, “And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
You say, that’s not me. Wrong, brothers and sisters–let me show you what you will do some day soon. Revelation 19:5 to 7, “And a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’ 6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder [it’s loud], saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’”
Friends, the true Church can’t wait for that coming day, and a true Church will give praise to God with a loud voice now–they will rejoice and be glad and give Him glory now. They will shout, “Hallelujah”, now! Will you?
You have got to be thankful for Patrick Levis–God gave him to FBC. What a gift he has been and continues to be to all of us–amen? Not once has it been, “Why this song?” Worship is always a joy, always appropriate, always Christ-exalting, always accurate biblically and theologically, always focused on Christ, not performers—we’re super thankful. And friends, all of this makes the true church . . .
#10 An ATTRACTIVE Community of people
Verse 47 finishes with, “and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Our elders are also overwhelmed by your unity–I am so thankful for it. The way you continue to overlook offences, not care about the freedoms of others. Plus the carefulness you show when you disagree–to not divide nor create issues. Our elders say (and this is a quote), “You make FBC feel like home.” It genuinely feels like family–cause it is.
The non-Christians had two reactions to the true Church. The Jews were kind and gracious to the early Christians (later there’d be intense persecution) and the incredible witness of this Church resulted in God daily calling many to repent and join His new body. We are praying the same.
I am thankful you reach out to lost family and friends, neighbors and workmates. I am so thankful for Dojo and Eddie who continue to provide outreach expressions for us. You have to be thankful for Morgan Maitland and the outreach this year of the high school ministry and Jon Stead with our junior high, and Shawn Farrell with our college ministry–all God-centered, Word-saturated ministries where Christ is taught clearly and put on display by amazing staff people.
Plus for the godly men and women who lead our incredible community groups. These groups often see many Early Church qualities in fellowship and teaching every week. I’m thankful for our missionaries and church establishing efforts overseas. Thankful for your efforts in local evangelism, sharing the Gospel, bringing family and friends to church. I am so thankful to be here–so thankful for you.
We are not the best church, but we’re a church seeking to offer our best to Christ. We never desire to exalt ourselves, but we do desire to exalt Christ. We are like other churches but also unique, because God graced us uniquely. We are not seeking to keep what He’s given, but seeking Him who alone keeps giving.
Pride will cause God to be against us, humility will cause God to bless us. We desire to depend upon Him now and for our future in all things. So allow me to ask you a few pointed questions before we pray.
1 Is God the Holy Spirit living in and through you?
2 Have you responded to the Gospel message? If not, turn from sin and depend on Christ.
3 Have you been obedient to the first command for the Christian–to be baptized by immersion before the church?
4 Are you committed to the Word of God alone, as the way people are saved and Christians are matured? And, are you hungering for it more and more?
5 Is your commitment to the local church moving closer to, or farther from the blueprint of Acts 2 and the New Testament Scriptures?
6 Are you interconnected in ministry to people? There are no solo saints–only community Christians.
7 Are you committed to our future as a church family–building, planting, training, sending, seeking to do all we can to make Christ known and His Word heard?
8 Is your commitment to our future demonstrated with sacrificial time and money?
9 Are you loving Christ, buying every opportunity to be with the people of God as we together praise Him,rejoice and experience great joy in Him?
10 Are you seeking to make Christ known to and His Word heard by all who will listen? Let’s pray.