Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BACK TO BASICS (Acts Chapter 2)

Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

I’m looking forward to a trip to Heppner, Oregon in a few days and our visit with my daughter, son-in-law, and one year old grandson.  He’s a busy little-boy and a lot of fun to be around (other grandparents know what I’m talking about).  We are thankful that he is a healthy and growing little boy.  How do I know this?  He does all things that healthy and growing toddlers do—he eats (a lot), he talks (all the time though most of what he says in unintelligible), and he walks (though crawling is faster and is still his preferred mode of getting around).  He does these things not because he is told to, but because they are things that healthy and growing babies instinctively do.

There are certain things that healthy and growing Christians and churches do.  They don’t just do them, they devote themselves to them.  They don’t do them because they are compelled to from some external source, they do them because the Spirit leads them to.  These activities have characterized the lives of believers since the birth of the church.  While there are differences in the specific ways in which churches in varying cultures around the world worship Jesus, every healthy believer or church is characterized by its devotion to these four things.  The absence of any of them would give good cause for doubt as to their spiritual health and well-being.

Peter proclaimed his first sermon and as a result “about three thousand souls” were saved (Acts 2:41).  The very next verse in Acts speaks then to the activities to which these new believers devoted themselves.  There is between verse 41 and verse 42 no additional information given regarding how these believers came to their understanding of the need to give attention to these things.  People were saved, then those people did them.  In addition to my own experience, I’ve heard a lot of testimonies of those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus.  There are things that new believers in Christ are Spirit-led to do.  They do not have to be told to read the Scriptures, like newborn babes they are instinctively led to long for the truth (Cf. 1 Peter 2:2).  They do not have to be told to pray, they were Spirit-led to pray to God for salvation, and are thenceforth Spirit-led to devote themselves to prayer.  Like a magnet the new believer is drawn to fellowship--with a Spirit-led attraction--with other like-minded believers.  Spirit-led believers are likewise compelled to break bread together in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.

There is something seriously amiss when an individual or church abandons any or all of these practices.  They are Spirit-led disciplines that are borne in us out of love for Jesus.  They are not religious duties or practices exercised for some mundane or human-ordained purpose.  Jesus is at the heart of each of them.  It is love for Jesus that engenders desire for the truth.  Those who love Him love to read about Him and hear from Him in His Word that they might know Him better.  Love for Jesus is likewise made evident in its corresponding love for—and desire to fellowship with—His people.  Love for Jesus necessitates prayer and remembrance of Him in the breaking of bread.  Those early church believers devoted themselves to these spiritual disciples because the Spirit-led them to as he filled their hearts with love for Jesus.

It would be fair to say that the church in America is today is both frail and anemic.  And countless strategies and new fads are suggested to fix that which ails the church.  Perhaps it would be good for us in this day to evaluate ourselves in light of the four-fold, Spirit-led, devotion of our predecessors.  Sometimes there is a need to get back to basics.  Here are the basics—love for His Word and HIs people and devotion to prayer and remembering Him in the breaking of bread—which should characterize the lives of Jesus’ followers.  Whenever we find a person or church devoting itself, out of love for Jesus, to these things we know that the Spirit is at work.  Wherever and whenever they are lacking, we likewise know that something has gone amiss.

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