December 2, 2018
Purest Expression of the Body of Christ
Steven Thomas grew up at Calvary after leaving India due to persecution as a young child. He attended church and school here until 2012. He has since graduated from Liberty University and works there full time in the Office of Spiritual Development.
If you can’t already tell, I’m pretty excited because you all are going through the book of Acts. That’s my book! When Jeff told me, I was like “Okay, let’s go!” We make it all the way to the end of chapter two today. Let’s just get a recap. I like to review a little bit. We see in Acts chapter one Jesus has been with his disciples forty days after the resurrection. He gave the promise to them that the Holy Spirit was going to come give them power. His ascension happened, and you see his disciples staring up into the sky. You don’t know how long they’re standing there, but all of a sudden these two men in white show up and say, “What are you guys doing? He’s coming back the same way he went up. Get out of here. You’re not supposed to be doing this.” What do they do? They got together. They united in prayer. Then they decided they need to roll some dice because that whole thing with Judas didn’t work out, so they need to add another person. They got Matthias. Then the day of Pentecost came, and the Holy Spirit came busting into the room. He showed up like a gangster! It says that there was a big wind, and he was there. They knew he was there. There was no doubt that he was there.
Peter then goes on to preach. We learned about that last week. Brother Jeff reminded us a couple of weeks ago that this is the same Peter that when he was asked about Jesus denied him to a little girl. Yet we see him here, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. He goes out and preaches one of the clearest depictions of the Gospel that we see in all the Bible. It’s not watered down. It’s not light- hearted. He says, “You’re the person who put Jesus on that cross. You people who are out there right now.” God worked in their hearts and they learned. They said, “Wow!” They were wrecked. They asked the apostles, “What are we supposed to do? We did do this.” Peter gives them hope in Acts 2:38-40. “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, ‘Be saved from this corrupt generation!’”
I know you are all super spiritual and super Christians in here, So, when I say the phrase Don’t fear here if your hope is in Heaven, you know what I’m talking about because Pastor Jeff told you last week to write that down. What I want to touch on today in Acts chapter two is, we get to see here the early church and what it was, how it came to be, what they were doing when they were going to get sent out. We also get to see the purity of that community, the unity that’s there, and it’s only because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I. When grace came, people were saved
41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.
The Holy Spirit brought it through Peter that day. We see that the people heard the word. They found their depravity. They repented of their sins, and they were baptized. Then we see a very important number here. They could have just said “a lot of people”, but they say about three thousand. We learned about Pentecost in the weeks past. Jeff has been talking to us about it. We learned that this is like the party. This is Jewish Thanksgiving. Like, it’s going down. Everybody’s in town. You have all your cousins there. It is a good time. Pentecost wasn’t just that day. God didn’t just pick it because everybody was there. He did that on purpose. But another reason is because Pentecost would have been the day that the Jewish person would’ve remembered the coming of the law.
So how many of you here know that Scripture is God-breathed? We see this picture of Jesus from Genesis all the way to Revelation. He’s the theme. He’s the redemptive story. That’s what gets me going, and that’s what gets you going. That’s the reason we get to sit here and experienced this. Some of you might not believe me, so we’re going to jump back and take a look at Exodus chapter thirty-two. Moses has gone up to mountain to get the law from God. But then, you see in all the chapters right before that he’s been doing this a while. I highlighted a couple of verses just to remind myself as we get into the story. Exodus 20:23 “Do not make gods of silver to rival me; do not make gods of gold for yourselves.” Exodus 24:7 “He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people. They responded, ‘We will do and obey all that the Lord has commanded.” Then Exodus 19:9, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear when I speak with you and will always believe you.’”
We’re reading through this, and I’m thinking to myself that they’re talking about Israelites, but are they sure they didn’t mean to say Southern Baptists? Let me tell you why. Southern Baptists want that instant gratification. They want it right now. They go up to Aaron and say, “Aaron, we don’t know where Moses went. He’s been gone a while. Could you make us a god?” Aaron tells them, “Bring your gold to me. We’re going to fashion it.” Exodus 32:4 says he got his tool belt out and made a calf. Then Israel put that calf up and said, “This is your god that brought you out of Egypt. We are going to worship him in the morning!” Then the Israelites were like, “Okay, he said it from the stage, and that calf’s kind of shiny. He said there’s going to be a party, so there’s going to be food. I love a potluck, so, you know, I’m going to be there tomorrow.”
The Israelites show up, but then God knows all things. We see God is up there with Moses saying, “Moses, do you know what they’re doing down there? I’m going to kill them all.” But then Moses intercedes and seeks the favor of a God on behalf of the Israelites saying, “God, please have mercy on them.” We see Moses come down from the mountain. Everybody’s partying. He gets mad. He throws the tablets on the ground, and they get smashed. Then Moses asks Aaron, “What’s going on?” Aaron says, “Well, they brought me the gold. I threw it in the fire, and this calf appeared.” Aaron doesn’t take credit.
Exodus 32:27-28, “He told them, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘Every man fasten his sword to his side; go back and forth through the camp from entrance to entrance, and each of you kill his brother, his friend, his neighbor.’ The Levites did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand men fell dead that day among the people.” We see that three thousand again. When the law came, three thousand people died; but when grace, when the new covenant came, three thousand people were saved. Praise God because Jesus lived the perfect life. He died for our sins so that we could have eternal life because by his intercession. We see Moses is the early representation of what Jesus is ultimately coming to do. Moses is interceding on behalf of God. Then Jesus intercedes on behalf of you and me and everyone.
II. We need to fall in love with Jesus
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.
I know this is so simple. You’ve heard it your whole life. If you went to Sunday School, that’s like one of the first things you were told. You have to remind yourself, what are you doing? It’s about a relationship with Jesus, not showing up to a building, not hanging out with friends. It’s about knowing the Creator of the universe more and more every single day. You see most of us in here have become consumers of church. We show up and we’re like, “Man, I’m barely getting out of bed today because my team lost yesterday. I’m not doing well. My kid’s yelling at me. I have a black eye. But, you know…okay, I’ll go.” Then you show up, and you’re like, “Man, I just didn’t feel the music today. That one light in the back was twitching. How am I supposed to worship if that one light’s back there doing that thing? I can’t focus. The pastor hasn’t been bringing the meat.”
The question here isn’t, are you being fed – it’s do you know how to eat? We’re all grown adults. When you’ve been taught to eat, you don’t have to be taught that again. I hope every day somebody’s not with you at lunch getting your fork out. No! Once you’ve been taught to eat, you never had to be taught that again. But then it’s your responsibility to eat the food that is put in front of you. In the book of Acts, we see a story of men and women who are hungry for Jesus. They’ve been filled up. They want to go out and share everything Jesus has revealed to them. I have a bunch friends, but none of us knows how to cook. I love a piece of cake, but none of us knows how to make cake. We all want to enjoy the harvest, but we don’t want to plough the field.
Everyone was amazed by the wonders. They wanted the wonders. What you didn’t see is in the verse right was that they devoted themselves to the teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. Something came before the miracles. Everybody wants the harvest but nobody wants to get dirty. We see Michael up here, and you’re like, “Oh, I wish I could sing like Michael. I wish I could get up there and play the piano.” But what you didn’t see is that Michael has put in the work for years. This man was dedicated to the craft of music, studying sheet music, being rejected at times, and picking himself back up to go on. When the door opened, he stepped through. You know why? Because he prepared. God was getting him ready. So many times, we just want to show up and sing the solo, but you’ve only ever sung in the shower or in the car. But you’re like, “Why? Why hasn’t it happened for me, God?” You don’t see the work. You don’t see the devotion or that love for the craft that’s being put in.
The miracles of God are often right behind faithful prayer. Right now, there’s a group of men and women somewhere on this campus who are praying that God will work through the service. -That God will show up, the Holy Spirit will fill this room, and that people will be changed. Those men and women are devoted to prayer. They don’t just show up on a Sunday and they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to pray today.” No. I know that for those men and women, that’s a part of their prayer life. They’re praying for the church. They’re praying for revival. They’re praying that God’s going to show up and do something in their church. Before I even knew I was going to get the opportunity to preach today, somebody prayed faithfully to prepare the way. We have to fall in love with the ordinary things. We have to fall in love with just praying privately those things that you do when nobody else is looking. Why? Because you love Jesus, not because you’re trying to show somebody else how to do something. Because you really love the Father. We have to fall in love with ordinary stuff. We see they’re learning, fellowshipping, and praying. Trust God with the ordinary and he’ll show up and do the extraordinary.
The early church was willing to be taught. They were willing to be servants and get on their hands and knees. We need to wake up every day not saying,
“What can I get out of this place?” But, “What can I give to this place?” God’s given each one of us something that might not be huge, but you’ve got an abundance of something. Give from that. I don’t have money, but I have a lot of time. I don’t have time, but I can pray. Find what God has given you abundantly and then bless somebody else with that.
III. The Holy Spirit unites us
44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.
The same spirit that came to live in the lives of the apostles is the same spirit that’s in this room. You don’t know what you have until pressure’s applied. This might be a little controversial. We’re speaking about unity and everything, but I feel I like I have to bring this up. The SEC championship game was yesterday. This whole year, Alabama’s been riding this one dude, Tua. He showed up last year. He’s way better than Jalen. But then what happened when the pressure was applied to Alabama? Jalen stepped up. He scored not one but two touchdowns, running in the game-winning touchdown. Everybody counted Jalen out, but we didn’t know that Alabama had him. We forgot until that pressure was applied, and then he showed up. So, put yourself out there. You have to put yourself in pressure situations where you have to show up and where God has to show up for you. You’re never going to grow, you’re never going to get these things unless you’re first putting yourself out there. We have to remember that all these signs, wonders, and all these cool things that the apostles are doing is not the apostles. They are the instrument being played by a Master. So that guitar, that piano, it’s not going to do anything unless somebody’s behind it orchestrating it. Yes, it’s the instrument, but it’s not the one that the praise goes to.
What’s remarkable is we see a group of people who previously had nothing in common at all, and then they’re willing to give up everything. I was thinking about this. My man Lawrence is up there. If somebody told me I had to give up my iPhone to hang out with Lawrence, I’d be like, “No, I think I’m just going to facetime Lawrence.” What we see here is you’re not required to give up everything. We see this in Acts chapter five. We see Ananias and Sapphira. They said they sold all their property and that they were going to give it all to the church. But what did they do? They lied. Then God struck them dead because of it. Peter said to them, “Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why then did you plan this with your heart?” You don’t have to give that extent but that’s between you and God. You have to walk that relationship out and find out what does God wants you to do with your resources? I can’t tell you. You can’t just copy somebody else. You have to live that out. You have to find that out between you and Jesus.
We see that they’re united here. It’s crazy because unity is such a hard thing to come by because it’s so easy to tear somebody down. I can walk up to somebody and say, “Hey, man, what’s up? Who dressed you today? You just need to go home.” That could break somebody down. It could take him a little bit longer to get back from that then just a day. All you did was spit some words at him because you felt like it. We need to get out of our comfort zone. We need to encourage people. We need to build people up. It’s so easy to tear people down, but come along beside somebody and champion with them. Get excited when God does something in their life. Encourage them, and build them up. Don’t tear them down.
We today are ruining church. We’re forming it to what we want. We don’t want to come unless we have to. We’re not united. There’s a lack of authentic community. We put on these masks of perfection, but we forget, don’t forsake the gathering of the saints. We need to partner with the people in this church because we need help, and we can’t do it alone. That’s why we have the church. -because what I lack, somebody else in this room has. We’re complete when we’re together, and we’re worthless when we’re divided.
Let’s say I’m going for a run. (I know this is a crazy illustration because nobody should go for a run.) I’m going for a run at Britt David Park. I’m really just booking it. I got my ear pods in. I’m ready to go. I’m in the zone and I’m on my fourth lap already. Then all of a sudden down the way, gravel appears on the trail but I’m not paying attention because I’m listening to Hillsong because that’s the only thing on my iPod. So, I’m running, but then all of a sudden, my foot hits that gravel and my body skids. I’m flailing around. I look like I belong on Extreme Wipeouts or America’s Funniest Home Videos. I end up spraining my ankle. The first thing I do is, I get a saw and I cut it off. You’re like, “No Steve! Don’t do that! I can Web-MD that. You just need to put some ice on it. You can wrap it up. I looked it up on YouTube. You just have to stretch it out a little bit, and then it will be back to normal. Why? Why would you amputate it?”
But tell me, when one of our brothers and sisters falls in the church, the first thing we want to do is cut them off. We want to put some distance between us. When you’re the hands and the other leg that didn’t get injured, you wrap it up. You’re there for it. Then if it’s still not working, you get an ankle brace. So then when that gravel comes up again, it’s got that support, so it’s not going to fall again. That’s what we need to be as the body of Christ. When somebody falls, pick them back up, let them know that their temporary loss right there means nothing because of what Jesus did. He can restore anybody who’s been temporarily put down, but we have to be the hands. We have to let them know.
IV. Find fellowship with other believers
46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts,
You have to make time. Every single one of us is busy; I know. But what’s going to be your priority? Meals are where fellowship begins and ends. Tell me somebody in your life who is a close friend of yours who you’ve never shared a meal with. There’s nobody in my life. We see many examples of Jesus eating with his followers. It’s a time to be together. Everybody loves food. Get food with somebody you love. Get food with someone who doesn’t know about Jesus and tell them.
V. God grows His family
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
All the glory goes to God. The early church gave all the praise to Jesus, and they had favor in the community. This isn’t something that always goes on. You don’t always have favor in the community. We’re going to see really soon in Acts that they’re about to get some persecution. God saved them and added to their numbers. It is God who works in your life. It’s not the words that somebody says. It’s not these different things. It’s the Scriptures and God working in your life. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
I want to end with a story today. A couple of months ago, I had an opportunity to go to the country of Rwanda. We took about a hundred people. We get to this country. It’s just beautiful. The people and the culture, the animals, everything that’s going on. We’re like, “Wow!” When I said the word Rwanda, one of the first things that a lot of you thought about was the genocide that happened in 1994. This genocide was a war between races, between two people groups that were so similar. Early on there were Europeans who had come in, and they had noticed that there was a difference in the two groups. They were called the Hutu, and Tutsi. The Tutsi owned the land, and the Hutu were the ones that worked the fields. They started really noticing the differences. They measured their skulls and their noses and put them into one of two groups – either Hutu or Tutsi. They literally had cards identifying who they were. If you don’t know the story, please research the history of Rwanda. Hotel Rwanda’s a good movie to just learn a little bit more about what’s going on. You should be aware of what’s going on around the world.
The Hutu ended up rising up and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Tutsi. We see this the whole week. We’re seeing all these mass graves, the weapons that were used, and the stories of children being killed of entire families being wiped out. I’m not going to lie. I’m getting mad. How could somebody let this happen? How could we let something so small divide us to where we’re literally killing each other? The week goes on, we’re continually just taking in all these things. At the end of the week, they take us to this village. They didn’t give us any description about what this village was. They didn’t tell us what we were going to do there. We pull up to this village and as soon as the doors opened, there’s children as far as your eye can see. They’re smiling, laughing, and loving. Then I see in the background the parents with these little smirks on their face because they’re like, “Okay, I’m about to get some free babysitting.”
After we’re done playing, I noticed that they put these benches in front of one of the houses. There have been these two people who have been hanging out while we played. They seem like best friends. They’re laughing together. She’s holding an umbrella making sure he doesn’t get any of the sun. We sit down, and the entire village gathers up. What we learned is this village is a place where the survivors of the genocide live and also a place where the people who committed genocide live. I’m like, “What? You’re telling me there’s murderers around me right now!? You’re telling me there’s people who were in on that horrific act!?”
Then the man in the yellow shirt begins to speak. He says, “I am a Hutu and during the genocide I killed many people.” Then the woman says, “I’m a Tutsi, and my entire family was killed in front of my face when I was a little girl.” The man goes on saying, “I was in prison for my crimes. When I was in jail, somebody came and told me about Jesus. He said, no matter what sin I committed or what amount of people I’ve killed, somebody died for me so that all my sins may be forgotten.” Then I hear the woman talking, “I also met Jesus. And because of his forgiveness or my sins, I’ve been able to forgive those who killed my family. This man that’s standing next to me today is the man that killed my entire family.”
Let me tell you, I was wrecked. I lost it completely at that point. This man literally killed her entire family, and she was holding an umbrella so that he could have shade. She goes on to say, “We’ve become great friends. It is because of the power of the Holy Spirit that I’m able to experience that. When I go out of town, this is the guy that watches my kids.” There’s nothing that can explain that. I mean I’m ticked off because some guy came in my house last week and tracked mud everywhere. And I’m like, forget that guy. I don’t want him in my life. He’s just an inconvenience. I can’t forgive him over something stupid like that. This man killed her entire family, and she forgave him. She is good friends with him. Then she’s serving him.
That’s grace that Jesus came to give us. We act like we forget what we have. Are you walking out of unity with somebody else? Maybe there’s somebody in this room that has done something wrong to you, who you don’t talk to anymore. You think, “I’m going to distance myself because it’s healthier for me.” No. We can embrace it because of Jesus and because of the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be united again and be stronger than we ever were.
• I need to be saved. Today, I surrendered my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I’ve been struggling with another Christian friend. Pray for us to develop unity this week.
+ I’d like to get connected with other Christians. Please contact me about finding a LifeGroup.
- How does the Holy Spirit make unity possible among believers?
- In your own words, describe real Christian unity. (What is it? What isn’t it?)
- What is the problem with a consumer approach to church? (Be specific.)
- How are your closest friendships? What role does faith play in these friendships?
- Read Ex 32:28. How does this passage compare to Acts 2:41? What is different between the two?
- How does unity among two Christians bring honor to Jesus? (Be specific.)
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to have more control over your relationships this week.