Today we continue with part-2, on the power and the purity of the early church.“The disciples remained steadfast in ... fellowship.”
In Greek the word is “koinonia” and refers to relational communion. It suggests living in community in agape love; a caring and participation in each others lives.
Why is this important? Because it was Jesus that founded and died for the church! Jesus designed it:
Many of us have been hurt or have “grown weary in well doing.” Maybe we’ve lost interest in becoming vulnerable, taking relational risks with others, or even in investing in others lives.
Few have probably experienced this as greatly as those in ministry --- those who are the targets of unrealistic, unmet expectations or who have been misunderstood, misrepresented and even mistreated. But where would the church be if all those in ministry were to simply drop out? The same applies to each and everyone reading this! The Body of Christ needs your spiritual gifts operating properly and fully within the design of the church.
Maybe this is why we need a fresh move of the Holy Spirit --- a fresh empowerment of agape love --- and of forgiveness.
But it also requires wisdom and discernment because the church attracts those who simply aren’t trustworthy: deceivers, wolves and false brethren looking to take advantage of us all.
That’s part of the reason that the church lacks purity and power today, because those responsible for caring for God’s sheep fail to protect them. It’s why in the Book of Acts we’ll see the Holy Spirit and the Apostles having to clean house, even in the early church. It’s why Paul wrote church and pastoral epistles, outlining church correction and discipline. Sadly, as Dr. James MacDonald relates through personal experience, “It seldom goes well.” I can personally testify to that.
Pop Quiz! Are we “remaining steadfast … in genuine biblical fellowship?”
Bottom line. What dies it reveal about our own hearts when we could care less for the only organism that Jesus birthed and died for? Maybe it's time to come in out of the cold.
God is sovereign, life is short, and sin and neglect have consequences!
In Acts 2:42, we see the foundational pillars of power and purity in the early church. In addition to the sovereign empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the disciple’s “remained steadfast” in Christ-centered:
The Living Bible expresses it this way; “They joined themselves with other believers in regular attendance at the Apostles teaching sessions and at Communion services and prayer meetings.”
Why is each so important? Today we’ll look at the importance of remaining steadfast in the Apostles doctrine (biblical, Christ-centered teaching).
There are only three things that are eternal: God Himself, the human soul, and God’s Word. That in itself should make it important to us! Why? Because it is “the power unto salvation” and restoration with God. It has the power to change lives and conform us into the image of our Master, Jesus Christ --- “a leopard can’t change it’s spots” without the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God causing regeneration, transformation and sanctification in our lives.
God’s Word also tells us the heart and mind of God --- what He is like, what He thinks of us, what He’s done for us, what He promises to do for us --- and yes, what He expects of us in return.
It’s God’s written source of comfort, strength and stability. It’s also designed for the equipping of the saints for ministry to others: preaching, teaching, evangelism and service.
And unlike pastor or pope --- the Apostles spoke God’s Revelation “ex-cathedra” (without error). That ended with the Apostolic Age and the death of the last apostle (John). The Canon of Scripture, as we have it today, is what God deemed enough for us for faith and conduct. We can trust that all Scripture is:
Pop Quiz. Are we remaining steadfast in God’s Word? Do we:
Challenging stuff! Is that perhaps why the church in America is lacking spiritual and moral purity and power? Is it why the culture is making a greater impact on the church than the church is making on the world? Is it why perhaps, some in our own church --- lack power and purity? Perhaps why individually we each may lack it? What about our children?
Is it time to get serious --- genuinely serious --- about the things of God?
God is sovereign, life is short, and both sin and neglect have serious consequences!
On Sunday mornings we've been working our way through the book of Acts. In Chapter two we've seen both the coming of Pentecost, and Peters great sermon. We've also seen people whose hearts (consciences) were pricked. Some had mocked, while others cried out for help --- why the difference?
When our heart (or conscience) is pricked, we tend to respond in one of three ways:
We can run, hide and cover up --- like Adam and Eve did in the garden after they sinned. We attempt to run away and hide from God and others so we won't have to face them. That just doesn't work. Those who care fir us, especially God, eventually come looking for us. And when they do, we then sew fig leave together to cover up our sin This usually takes the form of deflective deception: rationalizing and self-justifying, And when that doesn't work we continue our downward spiral and move on to blame-shifting (blaming others). And when that won't allow us to wiggle our way out --- we resort to overt deception: lying. Proverbs includes these types in it's description of "fools" --- they will not listen, they will not learn, they will not change, and they will not repent. The only way to dig ourselves out of the hole --- is by confessing, repenting and making restitution if necessary. This can painful and require humility, and is why most folks won't do it, But, it's the only way genuine restoration can take place.
A second reaction people may have when their hearts are pricked, is to get angry and lash out at others. Proverbs warns us of these types and calls them "Scorners" or "Mockers." Their abuse can be verbal or emotional --- or even physical --- like Can lashed out at Abel, Confession and genuine godly-sorrow (changed behavior) is also the only way to restoration with God and others.
The last reaction people may have, like here in Acts, is a cry out for help. These hearts have been prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive correction, and are prepared to repent and implement positive, biblical life-change. It's a heart that's been touched by the Sovereign Grace of God, and it leads to restoration with God and others.
So, let's be honest --- how do we respond when our hearts are pricked? When God uses someone or some circumstance to reveal our foolishness, our failings --- or even our sin? Do we try to run, hide and cover up --- rationalizing, self-justifying, blame-shifting and even lying? Do we lash out at others through verbal, emotional or physical abuse? Or, do we cry out to God and others for help with a genuine sense of brokenness and humility?
Although none of us will ever reach sinless perfection in this life, we can avoid so much unnecessary pain when we live a repentant life-style. It's why it's good to keep "short accounts" with God and others.
God is great, life is short, and sin has serious consequences.
,Summer is my time to read, study and prepare for the fall. It's my time to read whatever it is that "I" want to read --- usually books on pastoral ministry, a Bible commentary, or if I really get the chance, biography, especially Christian biography.
I just finished reading a short biographical study on Katarina Von Bora. She was born in Saxony Germany in 1499. When she was only six, her mother died and her father remarried. That same year Katarina was sent to a Benedictine boarding school. Four years later at the age of 10, she was informed that her father had enrolled her in a convent and would be expected to live out her life --- within those walls --- as a nun. She was "married to Christ" at age 16 and became a nun. But two years later she was exposed to the works of Martin Luther and his Reformation theology. She had heard teaching directly from the Scriptures and it had set her soul aflame. She and some others then sought freedom from her convent and were even willing to risk severe punishment and possibly even worse bondage than they were already subject to. With help from Luther himself, she and some others were smuggled out of the convent hiding in fish barrels used to transport Herring.
Little did Luther know that two years later, one of the nuns he had helped rescue would become his wife. "Kate" had married a man who had been declared a heretic by the pope and an outlaw by the Kaiser (the German King). Luther himself had had doubts about subjecting Katarina to all this, but she had no doubts whatsoever --- her heart belonged to Christ, God's truth, and to Luther.
By the way, this was during a time when the clergy wasn't allowed to marry --- leading to much sexual sin within the church. Although obviously she wasn't the first pastor's wife, Katarina had become one of the first pastor's wives since the arrival of the "Dark Ages." It was the birth of two simultaneous movements, the Reformation and the Renaissance, that ended the Dark Ages.
Luther called marriage "a school for character" as he realized how much his own life had been blessed by Katarina and their children. It's also because of Katarina that we have Luther's famous work entitled "Table Talk," based on the dinnertime conversations of Luther. They were recorded and preserved by Katarina .
Katarina watched her husband be misunderstood, misrepresented and even mistreated --- including threats on his life. She too also experienced much of the same personally. And although often hurt and wounded by those who meant their family ill will, they prayed for and encouraged one another in the Lord. Once, during one of these difficult times, Luther was very burdened and had lost his joy in the Lord. Kate put up with his mood for weeks. Finally, she had had enough, and one day met "Doctor Luther" (her pet name for her husband) at the door wearing a black, funeral dress.
"Who died?" Luther asked.
"God," said Katarina.
"You foolish thing!" said a put out Luther. "Why this foolishness?"
"It is true," she continued. "God must have died, or Doctor Luther would not be so sorrowful."
She knew her husband and her "therapy" worked to help refocus his vision back on the sovereign --- wisdom --- power --- and goodness of God.
Katarina not only ministered to her husband and their six children, but to the needs of people all over their hometown of Wittenberg. She listened to their problems and gave them counsel and care --- all while her own family often had little of their own.
Luther loved Katarina second only to his Lord. He affectionately called her, ""Kate, and Kitty My Rib", along with other pet names such as "my Lord Kate," or even "Doctor Katarina (she had become an excellent nurse and had learned herbal medicine while in the convent). In so many ways she had become his perfect "help meet."
Kate lived seven years after Luther’s death --- very tough, hard years. Alone she often had to run and hide with her children in the face of advancing armies and plagues. More than once she would have to rebuild the family home as a that result of the ransacking that occurred to her home while she was in forced hiding. As a widow in 16th-century Germany, she even had to fight over who would be the guardian of her children.
Finally, while once again trying to escape those pursuing her, she was thrown from a wagon into the icy waters of a ditch. Her daughter Margaret desperately tried to nurse her back to health, but Katerina died as the result of her complications. Throughout all of this, Kate demonstrated a --- dependence on God --- a desire to stand for truth --- and a continued faithfulness to her Savior. She was buried in Torgau at Saint Mary's Church, separated from the grave of her beloved "Doctor Luther." But, she was united with him again in Eternity.
As a husband and a pastor, I've also been gifted with such a "help meet" and "woman of virtue." I wouldn't have been able to be in the ministry without her. She has sacrificed much at times, and has always been there to support me, and others, in their genuine times of need.
And although she doesn't call me "Doctor Morgan" --- she does playfully call me "Pastor" --- with a twinkle in her eye.
I've been sitting here on my front porch this morning, thankful for God's blessings in my life. I've also been confessing my own sinful heart before God, I'm thankful that someday I will finally obtain "sinless perfection." No, it won't happen in this life but we've been promised that those of us who have embraced the Gospel and Jesus Christ, will someday be glorified, just like Jesus. Someday we will no longer sin against God and others. Someday we will no longer suffer the consequences of sin --- our own or as the victim of someone else.
There is coming a time when Jesus will welcome us home in Eternity. We will no longer suffer the effects of the Fall, We will no longer violate our Lord; We will no longer need to confess sin against God or others --- or have to forgive others sin against us.
That's part of our hope to come in glory; a time when all things will be made right --- even us.. That's a direct cause and effect of the power of the Gospel!
In biblical counseling there is the concept of the "Law of Attraction." Basically it states that we become what we think about --- good or bad. I don't know much about her, or if she is even a Christian, but Mary Renault summarizes the concept well, "In hatred as in love, we grow like the things we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our souls."
Perhaps this is why Scripture tells us of the importance to be "transformed by the renewing of our minds," or that what comes out of our mouths is an indicator of what's in our hearts. Maybe that's why Scripture encourages us that, "...Whatsoever things are HONEST, whatsoever things are JUST, whatsoever things are PURE whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT, if there be any VIRTUE, and if there be any PRAISE --- THINK ON THESE THINGS. Those things, which you have both learned, and seen in me (the Apostle Paul is speaking) do; and the GOD OF PEACE shall be with you." (Phil 4:8-9). (Emphasis added).
What are we putting into our minds? What are we reading, watching, listening to or entertaining ourselves with? Whose company do we keep?
Have you noticed how many people seem to be so angry anymore? Or fearful, lustful, covetous, rude, uncivil, or even entitled?
Maybe, as Scripture makes clear, it's because we're focusing on the wrong things? Maybe we've forgotten that Christ is still on the Throne --- in sovereign power, wisdom, and righteous judgment?
Maybe it's time to return to the simplicity, purity, and power of the Gospel --- and all that means to living a life of obedience, blessing, inner peace, and genuine, biblical joy.
THIS SUNDAY ~ Sunday, August 7th
As part of our regular service | 10:30 AM
(Bring a dish to pass)
If you're planning on being Baptized, please wear a T-shirt over whatever you're being Baptized in. Don't forget a change of clothes.
Please feel free to invite anyone who has put off being Baptized and would like to follow our Lord in obedience in Baptism.
Tomorrow is Communion Sunday; please join us. Our Monthly Potluck has been moved to NEXT Sunday (8/4/16) to coincide with our Annual Baptism Picnic.
Franklin Graham will be coming to Albany on August 25. He is coming to pray for revival in our country and for our elected elected officials. Please keep the preparations in your prayers!
Are you or someone you know dealing with unresolved relationships, unaddressed guilt, or untreated pain?
Are you dealing with anger, lust, covetousness, greed, discontentment, a critical spirit, envy and jealousy?
Are you dealing with difficult people?
Please prayerfully consider coming out Sunday morning for hope in the glory, grace and power of the Gospel.
Pastor Bob Morgan is the founding pastor of HCCF. His pastor's "heart-cry" is to see God glorified through the liberating power of the Gospel by leading people to freedom in Christ, and positive, biblical life-change.