|DEVOTED TO SCRIPTURE
Series: Who We Are - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 16, 2019
We’ve been studying the first 2 chapters of Acts and looking at... Who We Are as the church - as Creekside. If you’ve not been able to be with us you can go online and go back and read or listen to the messages of where we’ve been.
What we’ve seen is that we are members of the church - especially here locally as Creekside. We are witnesses of Jesus Christ - the good news of the Gospel. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God intends for us as the church. We are those who have been convicted of our sin and our desperate need for God’s grace and what He offers us through Christ’s completed work on the cross. And - as we saw last Sunday - we are converted in that we have repented of our sin and by faith turned towards God to renew us spiritually into this radical change of life that can only come from God.
To quote again that familiar quote from Allistair Begg: A church is not a homogeneous club of people like us with whom we would naturally like to go on vacation. Rather, it is a supernatural fellowship of people very unlike us in whom we are bound in Christ. (1)
Bottom line - we are a supernatural fellowship of generally unlike people bound together by God and empowered by God - to be all of those “we ares” - in Christ for God’s purposes and for His glory.
This morning we’re moving from exploring - these foundational “we are” truths - that define who we are - this morning we’re going to build on that foundation and begin exploring what all that means in how we do life together with the great potential that we have because we are the church.
So, hold on to that as the big picture of what we’re looking at: Who we are in the real time of being the church. The great potential of that.
If you are able - would you please stand with me as we come before God’s word together - and read with me Acts 2:40-47.
And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Verse 40 drops us into the end of what happened at Pentecost. 50 days ago Jesus was put on trial - crucified - and resurrected. 10 days ago Jesus ascended back to Heaven. The Feast of Pentecost has arrived - the great Jewish pilgrim first fruits harvest festival. Jerusalem is packed with Jews from all over wherever there’s anywhere to be from.
As the followers of Jesus met that day at what was about 9:00 in the morning. What time? 9:00 a.m.
Suddenly there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind. Which was loud enough to attract people from all over Jerusalem. Something like fire appeared and distributed itself individually on each person. Then these people from all over heard these people with the fire talking in their own dialects about God’s mighty works.
So these perplexed pilgrims from all over asked, “What does this mean?” Or more to the point: “What does this mean for me?”
Peter explains that what they’re experiencing is the fulfilment of what God said He would do. And what God did through Jesus Christ - the Messiah - God in the flesh and blood of our humanity. Jesus Whom these people pressured the Romans into crucifying. But in fact, they themselves were guilty of crucifying their Savior.
Their question: What does this mean for me? Peter’s answer: You yourselves bear the guilt before God for your own sin. As do we all.
Hearing Peter’s answer and being convicted of their sin - having heart level regret and realization of their guilt and hopeless situation - convicted they asked Peter another question: “What shall we do?”
Peter’s answer - 2:38: “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
By faith repent of your sins - rejecting your sin - and turning your lives over to God - throwing ourselves into the arms of God with no possibility of turning back. Which is a radical change of life direction that opens us up to the radical - Holy Spirit - produced life of a true converted follower of Jesus Christ.
Baptism publicly testifies of that inward choice. Our public declaration that we’ve by faith repented of our sin and we’re trusting Jesus alone as our Savior. Conviction and conversion.
Verse 40 is what happened next. Which - as much as we might be tempted to think that this is about a bunch of people coming to faith, repenting and getting baptized, this isn’t about a bunch of people coming to faith, repenting and getting baptized. But about the testimony of what God does - real time - in the lives of those who are convicted and converted.
And with many other words he [Peter] bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Peter goes on teaching about Jesus and encouraging those gathered there to turn away from this “crooked” - literally “bent” - sinfully perverse - generation. And many did.
Luke records that 3,000 people “received” what Peter taught - came under conviction and converted and we’re baptized as a public testimony of their faith in Jesus.
It is important that we slow down and consider the logistics of that. What would that be like? 3,000 people getting baptized.
Last year - during Kid’s Camp - aka VBS - Nate trusted Jesus as his Savior. Last Sunday - out at the lake - Nate publicly testifying of his personal faith in Jesus and I had the privilege of baptizing Nate. And we all got to participate in that huge God moment. To God be the glory.
Thinking logistically. If we were to take the 10 minutes or so of Nate’s baptism and multiply that by 3,000 it works out to almost 21 straight days of the pastor baptizing people. Keep the people and the coffee coming.
12 Apostles baptizing 3,000 people at 10 minutes each still comes out to almost 2 straight days of baptisms. 120 people baptizing 3,000 people at 10 minutes each comes out to several hours of baptizing - even if there were enough places to do the baptisms.
Which there were. Which should impress us with how God does things.
If you were to go to Israel today - on the south side of the temple mount - you would see these steps. The picture to the right is where those steps were in relationship to the Temple in Jesus’ day. More than likely where this huge crowd ended up listening to Peter - because the room were the 120 disciples was way too small for a crowd of 3,000 plus. Where Peter did his teaching was probably on or near these steps.
Located near these steps are hundreds of mikvot - which is what this - the picture on the far right. Which you can go to Israel and see today.
A mikveh is a specially constructed - step down into - ritual bath that the Jews used to ceremonially cleanse themselves - by immersion - before entering the temple area. Or they used these mikvot to symbolize a new spiritual beginning or conversion to Judaism.
And - if these mikvots - located near the steps weren’t enough - just down the steps is the pool of Siloam which could have been used. And on the other side of the Temple is the Pool of Bethesda which could have also have been used.
So imagine - 3,000 plus people heading out from these steps - all around the temple and Jerusalem - convicted and converted - getting baptized in the name of Jesus Christ - ceremonially beginning again spiritually - testifying of their becoming by faith repentant followers of Jesus - using a form of ritual that the people watching all this would have completely understood.
Do you think that just possibly that might have been an amazing - astounding - miraculous God moment? Which is not about a bunch of people coming to faith, repenting and getting baptized - but about God at work in and through the followers of Jesus and in the lives of those who’d turned to Him. God declaring the truth of Jesus the Messiah. To God alone be the glory.
What would that be like here? 3,000 divided by 120. What if next Sunday - 25 times the number of people showed up. What if 1,700 plus new converts gathered right here for worship next Sunday? What would that be like?
I don’t know how’d I react to that. Joy and massive stress. We’d need to expand the Promised Land. More chairs. More coffee. That would push most of us out of our comfort zones. Wouldn’t it?
We pray for this. Don’t we? We’re working for it. We long for it. That’s a huge chunk of what Kid’s Camp is all about.
We’re an evangelical church - focused on getting the good news of the gospel out into the world. This sanctuary was built here on this site because we want people in this neighborhood to come to Jesus.
Love God is our worship gathering entry point into what God is doing here at Creekside. It’s what we invite people to come to - to gather with us to worship God. What would that be like if they did?
As we move forward exploring what it means to be the church in how we do life together - the potential in all of that - seeing what God did is a powerful testimony - that being the church and our life together as the church isn’t about us and what we expect or envision or what we think we’re capable of or not - and what makes us comfortable or not - what all that testifies of - is not about us, but about God.
3,000 souls being baptized is a testimony to the saving - redeeming - work of God. Not the eloquence of Peter’s sermon or the logistics of baptizing 3,000 people.
It is the Genesis to Revelation big picture of what God is doing to rescue and redeem and restore us from what our sin has removed us from - to bring us into the righteous relationship that God desires for us to have with Him.
In the real time of being the church - if we stay focused on God - that all this is about what He is doing in us and through us according to His will and purposes - the ongoing result of that will be spiritual wholeness and health that testifies of redeemed life in Jesus all to the glory of God.
Verse 42 introduces us to how the early church responded to all that.
Verse 42 begins: “they devoted themselves…”
“Devoted” - translates the Greek word “proskartereo” which has the idea of giving unrelenting steadfast persevering enduring courageous strong attention to someone or something.
Maybe you’ve heard about the wife who went with her friend to the police station to report that her husband was missing!
When the policeman asked for a description, she said, “He’s 6 foot 2 inches, has deep blue eyes, dark wavy hair, an athletic build, well-groomed and sharply dressed, weighs 185 pounds. He’s soft-spoken, well-mannered and loves the children.”
The friend spoke up and said. “But your husband is fat, 5 foot 3, rude, smokes cigars, bald, has a big mouth, never bathes, dresses sloppy, his teeth are rotten and he’s terribly mean to your children.”
The wife replied, “Well true, but who wants that one back?”
Being devoted is being committed. 100% being “all in” for the long haul. Persevering and pursuing. Unrelenting.
Verse 42 records that “they devoted themselves”
“Proskartereo” is a compound word. It begins with “pros.” Which means “from the side of” Meaning their devotion wasn’t isolated. It was collective: “themselves.” They did it together - side by side - with each other and for each other.
These believers were devoted - steadfast - unswervingly committed 24/7/365 to what it means to be the church together.
We need to be careful about idealizing the early church. Comparing ourselves to what is meant to be an example for us and forgetting that the early church was as messed up as we can be. At least half of what’s written in the epistles is responding to problems in the early church.
Sometimes we can compare ourselves to the church in the third world or the persecuted church and how devoted they are - huddled in secret locations for Bible reading using hand written sections of Scripture - praying all night. Sometimes we hear this said, “What we need here is persecution.”
Somehow that makes me uncomfortable.
Let’s be careful. We don’t want to want to discount the early church or what our siblings in Jesus are going through in other places - which is and should be inspiring - but Christians can be just as messed up over there as we can be messed up over here. Being messed up is pretty consistent for all of us.
Less distractions or greater persecution isn’t the issue. Choice is. The real time - this is not about me - this is about God - devotion - the steadfast unswerving commitment to the Body of Christ - the church - that’s being shown to us here in verse 42.
Back in my younger days I took a rock climbing class down at Biola. Part of that class was us climbing up the side of Sutherland Hall - which is this two story brick building on campus. One wall of which had slightly protruding bricks so a person with reasonable ability could climb up the wall.
The hardest part of the climb was about 3/4 of the way up - when cratering was a very real possibility - we were suppose to purposely disengage from the wall in order to experience what it was like to completely trust the guy on the other end of the rope.
Climbing up the wall - life in danger - dangling at the end of a rope is not the time to find out that the guy on the other end of the rope isn’t as committed to the process as I am.
Without “proskartereo” - without devotion and commitment - without being mutually vulnerable and dependent on each other - we’re just the Creekside Evangelical Free Club - a loose association of generally unlike people.
One serious - crippling - issue which has the church in America struggling for life - is the issue of our own self-focus - self-preservation. People who desire the joys and experiences of being the church but struggle with the devotion - the commitment that requires.
So many Christians are just moving sideways from church to church trying to get their needs met - or the needs of their children - but not willing to go there when it comes to that daily devotion commitment for the long haul.
Which is totally understandable. Why would we ever choose to set aside what builds into us - in order to leave ourselves dangling - vulnerable and open - with the potential pain of being hurt… again? Why would we pour ourselves into someone else with all the potential for hurt in that?
Hold on to this: The joy of being the church - the depth of community - the spiritual growth and character development and heart level transformation - our own heart level peace and wholeness and deepening relationship with God - the potential for being a loving local expression of the Body of Christ that testifies of the good news of the gospel in a way that attracts others to Christ - that depth of unity in Christ is made possible only by the working of God within us and through us as we choose to mutually be devoted - to be committed to each other - as the Body of Christ.
Which is not about trusting messed up people but about faithfully and obediently first trusting God for what He will do in us and through us. Because being the church is about God… not us.
What would it be like if we all were devoted - made the choice - by faith repentant - trusting God - to be daily devoted 24/7/365 to each other? What would that look like here?
Verse 42 goes on describing what that devotion looked like - “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching...”
Which is the first of a list of “devoted to’s” that we’re going to be looking at over the next few Sundays. What they - together - were devoted to that strengthened them and built them up together as the church - with all of the great potential that God has for us.
First: “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching...”
We need to be clear on what the apostles’ teaching was and what that means for us.
The early church had the Hebrew Bible - what is essentially our Old Testament. The Old Testament is the foundation upon which the New Testament rests.
The Old Testament records history and contributes to our study of archaeology and culture and what it means to be God’s people and to live in relationship with the living God. The Old Testament teaches about wisdom and love and parenting and family and finances and a whole host of practical issues from God’s perspective.
The Old Testament gives us the core doctrines and theologies of our faith. Sin - atonement - redemption. Who God is. What God is doing in His creation and why. And it gives us patterns and examples of how to respond to God - liturgy and worship and prayer.
The Old Testament contains specific and crucial prophecies about the Messiah - how to identify Jesus and what His ministry and message will be.
We need the Old Testament in order to understand the context and teaching of the New Testament. And yet, the Old Testament must always be interpreted by the New Testament. Through the lens of what Jesus taught and did. Through the lens of the Holy Spirit inspired writings of the apostles and the other writers of the New Testament.
Peter describes his own experience with that. 2 Peter 1:16: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. [Peter was there]
“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word [the Old Testament], to which you will do well to pay attention… knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:16,19-21)
The early church had the apostles’ teaching. Using the foundation of the Old Testament they taught from their own eyewitness experiences with Jesus and what Jesus had taught them. They taught by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They taught what it meant to live as convicted and converted followers of Jesus - what it means to be the church.
Today we have that teaching written down for us - preserved in the Bible.
Would you read this with me?
We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
Briefly unpacking that.
God has spoken through human authors - the Old and New Testaments - the Bible. Which is without error in the original writings - the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Through the writings of Peter and the others. God’s Word is all that we need to know if we are to know what it means to be saved and to live in relationship with the living God.
God’s word - because it is God’s word - must have the authority over our lives - how we come to salvation - how we interpret life - how we justify every effort of what we are striving for in life. Even how we exist together as a congregation. “Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises
The Bible stands in authority over governments, clergy, even the church and her traditions. The Bible is to have authority over our lives, not just when it seems reasonable or convenient or fits our framework of understanding and experience. God’s word should be so deeply embedded within us that our natural reaction will be to always live in obedience to it as an integral part of our nature.
Billy Graham said: “One of the greatest needs in the church today is to come back to the Scriptures as the basis of authority, and to study them prayerfully with dependence on the Holy Spirit for interpretation. Let the words of God burn in our souls. It is when we fill our hearts with His Word that we overflow into the lives of others.” (3)
Billy Graham said that in 1959. But that call to place ourselves - together - under the authority of God’s word is timeless. There’s authority and power in God’s word which compels devotion - commitment - for each of us individually and for all of us corporately. That devotion to the authority of God’s word over us, God uses to deepen our relationship with Him and with each other.
Quoting Mark Dever: “Fundamentally, this means that both pastors and congregations must be committed to expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is the kind of preaching that, quite simply, exposes God’s Word. It takes a particular passage of Scripture, explains that passage, and then applies the meaning of the passage to the life of the congregation… The practice of expositional preaching presumes a belief that what God says is authoritative for His people. It presumes that His people should hear it and need to hear it, lest our congregations be deprived of what God intents to us for shaping us after His image.” (4)
For my part I need to be committed to preparing and presenting well - solid, from the word, expositional preaching. And as congregation you all need to be committed to listening well - expositional listening. Each of us being hungry to hear God’s word and to have it applied to our life.
Which is why we publish the texts of upcoming sermons in the monthly bulletin and send them out in our weekly email. So you can read and study ahead to be better prepared listeners.
That’s why the sermons are posted online - so if you’re not able to be here you can listen and study what you’ve missed. And keep up with the teaching as we move through sections and books of Scripture.
And so you can go back during the week and listen again. Hearing something a second time usually brings up stuff we missed the first time.
Maybe that means taking a verse from the passage and meditating on it or memorizing it or marinating in it. Just soaking in it and allowing God to use it to form your thinking and perspective.
That’s why loving others is so important. Life Groups - studying through the Word of God together. Thinking together about what surprised you in the text or what challenged you. Helping each other to be accountable to God’s word - to understanding the application of His word to where we live life.
Or the conversations where we eat lunch or on the way home. Talking about the sermon - or even asking your kids what they learned in Children’s worship and then sharing about what you learned or what you were challenged by or encouraged by. That’s huge for helping us listen together. Even as families.
Being devoted to the apostles’ teaching - for us today - that means we together need to be committed together to discovering the meaning of Scripture and allowing that meaning to form how we live together as the church.
Pulling all that together.
God has so much potential for us as a congregation. As members. As witnesses. Empowered by the Holy Spirit. Convicted and converted.
Which is about God - not us.
So, we need to stay focused on Him. Devoted to each other as we’re trusting and devoted to God. One huge priority in that - what can keep us focused on God - vulnerable together - vulnerable before Him - is our mutual commitment to live together under the authority of God’s Word.
1. Allistair Begg, Sermon: Membership Matters - Romans 12:1-10, September 6, 2015, truthforlife.org
3. Billy Graham, Hour of Decision, sermon, November 08, 1959, cited in Decision, June 2019, page 17
4. Mark Dever, What Is A Healthy Church? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2007), pages 63,64
Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What Is A Healthy Church Member? (Wheaton, Il, Crossway Books, 2008)
Mark Dever, What Is A Healthy Church? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2007)
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 5: Insights on Acts (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016)
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.