October 2009


Peter and John, after having witnessed the church expand by 3000 people in a day, went to the Temple to pray.  Upon entering, they happened to catch the glance of a dude born paralyzed asking for alms.  The strong tendency for alms-giving in the Temple was to draw attention to oneself like a look-how-good-I-am-for-giving-to-the-poor attitude.  Jesus confronts this tendency in Matthew 6:1-2, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.”

So, here they are.  Peter and John gave him an intense look and said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

The man’s biochemistry immediately was changed, his spinal cord regenerated and the man jumped up and began praising God all throughout the Temple.  Now, if this doesn’t draw attention I don’t know what does.  In fact, it even says, “all the people ran to them…astounded”.  So, heeding the words of Jesus, Peter quickly deferred the credit, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”

Peter was offended at the people even considering that he could have done this by his own power or religiousness.  He knew full-well of the rediculousness of that ideal.  Instead Peter sought the glory for his king Jesus. Everyone knew who Jesus was, as he had caused a scene more than once in the Temple.  Peter proceeded to preach the gospel of how Jesus is the Author of life whom they murdered.  But God raised from the dead, and so, since he is alive, his name holds a lot of power as you could imagine a resurrected Author of life would. 

This is different than the chant of the religious Ned Flanders of the world, “praise the Lord” to everything without any notion of actual worship happening.  We see it all the time.  Especially on award shows like the Grammy’s, “First off, I just want to thank God, and my family, and my fans”.  Sound familiar?  That is more often than not politically-correct, trying-to-please-the-fans, false humility.  Why?  Because it does not stop at God.  God’s hand is regarded as merely the extra credit to fill in the gaps of personal effort.  Real, Jesus-glorifying humility stops with Jesus.  “I want to thank God, only God, and it is all by the grace of God.”  Wouldn’t that be radical?  Wouldn’t that cause a stir in Hollywood?  Wouldn’t producers and fans be upset that they were not glorified?  Yes, yes, and yes.  We serve a high king who has a lot of glory due, and a king who gets very jealous when his glory is not given solely to himself.

Ponderings…

1.) Is Jesus’ name worth more than gold and silver to you? What are you willing to risk for Jesus’ fame?

2.) How do you do with recieving compliments from others?  Do people recognize that it is by the grace of God that you are who you are (1 Cor. 15:10)?

3.) How can you compliment others in a way that gives the credit to Jesus?

4.) Pray that God would give you a heart that loves His glory more than your own reputation.

     This portion of Acts is a kind of quick summary statement that Luke provides in telling his reader about what the earliest church was doing and looked like.  Being that this is the church that existed closest to the time of Jesus, and was the most unified in all of history, we need to pay close attention to what Luke says about it. 

     “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

In other words, they took the Bible seriously, each other seriously, and Jesus seriously.

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching

Jesus appointed a handful of men to be his apostles.  Jesus gave these men authority in the church in word and in writing.  It was these men who wrote the New Testament; and so, to devote oneself to the apostles’  teaching was to devote oneself to the Bible. 

They devoted themselves to fellowship

What exactly is fellowship?  Most American Christians have a misconception of real, biblical fellowship.  Most of us will hang out exclusively with Christians and have a lot of fun and we call it fellowship.  Fun is certainly a piece of fellowship, but if it never goes beyond that, please do not call it fellowship.  Fellowship is the act of believers gathering together to worship Jesus, to study his word, to hold one another accountable, to confess sins, to impact their community, and to have sanctified fun.  Within fellowship should be two things: the breaking of bread and prayer.

They took Jesus seriously

In breaking bread, the believers were remembering the glorious covenant that Jesus made with his church by getting murdered on the cross (Lk. 22:19).  Breaking of bread in the early church was a meal, however; it was not just a wafer and an ounce of grape juice.  Gathering for a meal with other believers is a great way to engage in fellowship.  The Lord’s Supper is intended to be done within fellowship-not an entirely individual experience.  But it must be centered on Jesus’ covenant-making.  It’s all about Jesus.

Within fellowship, be devoted to prayer.  This is a Jesus-centered act.  Rely on Jesus to meet needs, to advance his gospel, and to build up the church.  Worship Jesus in prayer.  Intercede for others by asking Jesus to save them.  Be serious about Jesus by praying to him.

“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds toa ll, as any had need.”

The other mark of God’s earliest church was that there was an almost eery detachment from belongings.  This is truly a strange concept for 21st century American believers.  Hebrews 10:34 says, “you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”  What a strange concept!  Joyfully accepting when someone else comes and breaks all of our stuff.  I can see perhaps merely accepting it, but joyfully?! You have got to be kidding me.  Guess what, it is no joke.  This can only be the genuine response when we know how precious Jesus is.  It’s like when you get a new Xbox 360 and someone comes and plunders your Nintendo 64.  Who cares, right?  You have something way better now.  Jesus is infinitely more precious than anything on this earth that you could possibly own.  You can joyfully accept the plundering of your property.  You can joyfully sell your beloved belongings to serve your brother or sister in Christ. 

Questions…

1.) Which of the three marks (Bible, fellowship, Jesus) do you need to ask Jesus to work on in your own life?

2.) Which of the three marks do you need to ask Jesus to work on in your church?

3.) Who do you know in need that you could help by giving away something of yours?

Parents…

1.) Cultivate these marks in your family.  Ask your kids how to improve. 

2.) Dads- are you making sure to gather the family for devotions?  Set the example for the family.