|DEVOTED TO BREAKING BREAD
Series: Who We Are - Part Eight
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 30, 2019
If you are able - would you please stand with me as we come before God and His word this morning. Would you read with me our text for today: Acts 2:42-47.
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.
Some brief back fill to get us up to speed together.
We’ve been studying the first 2 chapters of Acts. Seeking to understand more of who we are as the church locally gathered here as Creekside. What that means. The potential of what God has for us together.
We’ve seen that we are members of the church - witnesses of the gospel - empower by the Holy Spirit - wo are convicted and converted.
Verse 42 begins: “they devoted themselves…” Which is our introduction to what all those “we ares” looks like in the real time of real life for those of us generally unlike people who are bound together, by God, in Christ.
Being devoted is being committed. 100% being “all in” for the long haul.
“Themselves” meaning they did it together - with each other and for each other.
These believers were - and we are to be - devoted - steadfast - unswervingly “all in” committed 24/7/365 to what it means to be the church gathered here together.
As we’ve been going through Acts, we’ve seen that they were - and we are to be - devoted together to the apostle’s teaching. Which today we have in the Bible.
Second - we saw that they were devoted to the fellowship. Which is the life that God gives us together in Christ. Being devoted to each other.
That’s the back fill. Which is online.
Moving forward - we’re coming to the next quality of being the church that they were devoted to. That we need to be devoted to. Being devoted together to… “the breaking of bread.”
Which, as tempting as it might be to think that is about breaking bread this really isn’t so much about breaking bread but about what breaking bread represents.
Luke using that term “breaking bread” is bringing together - mingling together - two core essentials in the life of the early church that they were devoted to.
The big picture of that is what’s on the wall here: Breaking bread is about Loving God and Loving Others.
The real time example of that is in verse 46: 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.
Briefly unpacking that:
“day by day - meaning daily - meaning each day. Meaning nothing else that they could have been doing got in the way of them doing this.
“Day by day [they were] attending the temple together…”
“Attended” is a weak translation of the same Greek word that’s translated earlier as “devoted.” Meaning that they did more than just show up once in a while to attend services there. They were all - daily - continually participating together at the Temple.
Which - let’s be careful - which is more about what they did there at the temple rather than the location - being at the temple.
The temple was religiously and culturally significant. It was the physical heart of Israel’s relationship with God. It’s where God’s people knew to gather and worship God even before becoming followers of Jesus. Coming to faith in Jesus, the believers continued to gather there for worship and to hear God’s word taught.
Nothing distracted them or kept them away from being 100% daily all in “devoted” to being together at the Temple to worship God.
And they gave daily priority - we’re devoted - to breaking bread in their homes. Smaller gatherings of less than 3,000 people met in homes. Given the square footage of where most of us live that makes logistical sense.
In homes - smaller groups gathered where... they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all people.”
The early church would meet in homes to enjoy a meal together - sing hymns - read Scripture - hear teaching - and then at the end of the meal - the high point of all of that would be taking bread and wine together according to Jesus’ instructions given to His disciples during the Passover Meal. Jesus recasting the images of the bread and the cup to represent His body and His blood.
The bread and wine were eaten and drunk in remembrance of Jesus as a means of having communion with the Lord Himself and through Him with each other. The celebration of the life we have together in Christ because of Christ that is with Christ.
“The breaking of bread” describes the mingling of those two essentials.
The coming together of Loving God - worship - and Loving Others - communion - that God uses to grow us in Christ likeness and to bring us to the fullness and depth and unity of life together and with God - the joy and testimony of being the church - that God desires to bless us with and to use for His glory.
That is a mouthful. We need to slow down and understand the crucial significance of that for ourselves. What is God opening up to us? The great potential of that. What does “breaking bread” means for us.
First - breaking bread means Worship. Love God.
Hang on to this: Worship is all about... God. Not us. To God alone be the glory.
Paul writes - Romans 12:1 - writing to the Christians in Rome about how God desires for us to worship Him. Paul writes: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We need to hear this: Worship is our God given choice to daily commit all that we are to God - laying ourselves without reservation on the altar before Him - for His glory alone.
We need to hear that and let that sink into the deep parts of who we are.
Way too easy we trend towards worship being about us. What we get out of worship. What we bring to worship. How well we’re worshiping. Who’s shows up at worship. Where we sit during worship.
Worship - styles of worship - music - liturgy - ritual - how the Bible is taught or not - who gets to lead in worship - has been a divisive issue in the Church in the United States for a lot of years. Divisive in a lot of places for a lot of years.
It’s not a stretch - given the diverse backgrounds of the church in Rome that Paul’s writing to - that worship was an issue with them as well. 2,000 years of us struggling not to focus on ourselves in worship.
Isaac Watts’ hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross reflects what Paul is urging us to. Listen to these words.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Without God calling us to Himself we are alone and hopeless and forever doomed. And yet, God has - by His grace and mercy and love - God has saved us - atoned us - redeemed us - renewed us - even forgiven us. God has adopted us. Made us one in Christ. God has called us to together - given us the ability - shown us how - to together worship Him.
Worship that transcends the pettiness of what we focus on and divide over. Worship that triumphs over our egos and what we expect to get out of worship - what the worship experience is suppose to do for us.
Worship that brings us to the cross - and falling down prostrate before God - in total surrender of our lives to cry out in desperation for Him to free us from the encumbrance of our selves and our sin that we might worship Him alone.
Sometimes - as we’re orientating our lives around our schedules and what is important to us - sometimes we lose touch with the reality that it is God Who gathers us into His presence. Worship is because of His initiative - not ours. We are to respond to His commands - His words. This is His anointed space. We are in the presence of the transcendent living and holy God our creator and redeemer. God is THE central reality of all true worship.
When we begin to understand worship as God calls us to worship Him - that is worship which God uses to bring us together in Christ. To build us up as the church. To enable and empower us to live by faith together as we focus not on ourselves but on God who alone is worthy of worship. That’s worship that God uses to bring glory to Himself.
Second - breaking bread means Communion. Love Others.
The high point - the climax - of the early church’s small group - in homes - fellowship around food - the high point of that gathering was sharing together communion - taking together the symbols of Christ’s body and blood. Sharing together what symbolized not only their relationship with Christ but also their relationship together because of Christ.
In order to think about what that means for us we’re going to jump over to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
Following the example of the Jerusalem church - the church in Corinth -met together in homes for prayer - preaching - praise and worship. Then they shared a meal together. Then communion.
As good as that may sound, we know that Paul was writing to a congregation that below the surface was deeply divided. Paul’s letter isn’t filled with a lot of warm fuzzy fist bumps and high fives. But filled with deep concern for the ungodly fractures in their fellowship that climaxed in communion.
In chapter 11 - in what is a familiar passage - Paul focuses on the “breaking of bread” and communion as the fault line of that division.
Instead of sharing their food and rejoicing together over a meal - rejoicing together over God’s provision and blessing of their lives. Instead of recognizing that it was during a meal that Jesus directed His followers as to how they should remember Him. Instead of being impressed and humbled by the grace of God and His mercy extended to them. Instead of sharing and rejoicing - there was a spirit of selfishness and division.
Cliques and factions dominated. The wealthy and powerful flaunted their positions by gluttony and hoarding food in their own little groups. The poor and the slaves were set aside and left hungry.
It would be like going first in line at a potluck and filling our plate or two with food - strategically stacking as much as we can arrange on the plate - and not really giving a rip that at the end of the line it’s pretty slim pickings. Not caring that some at the end are doing without for the sake of those stuffing themselves at the front. And then choosing to sit with people like us - people we get along with - and not seeing the opportunity to extend fellowship to others.
Paul says, if all you’re getting together for is to eat and drink - and focus on yourselves - if you’re not going to care for each other - if you’re going to be indifferent to the needs of those around you - if this gathering together is about you - then stay home and spare the church.
Paul gives them an illustration:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Familiar verses. Yes?
It’s helpful to see those verses in the context of Paul bringing the Corinthian church back to Jesus. Back to where our heart attitude should be at potlucks or any time we gather.
Jesus - on the night of His betrayal leading to the crucifixion - Jesus as He’s serving and sharing the Passover Meal - Jesus is teaching about His death.
Jesus is sharing with Peter who Jesus knows will deny Him. Sharing with Thomas who will doubt Him. Serving the others who will disbelieve and deny and desert Him. Even serving Judas who He knows will betray Him.
Jesus taught: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Jesus commands us: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34,35).
As we gather, is our heart in sync with Jesus’ heart?
A young mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, age 5 and Ryan, age 4. As they sat at the kitchen table waiting, the boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.
Their mother, seeing an opportunity for a moral lesson, reminded them, “If Jesus was sitting at our table, He would say, ‘Mom, please let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’”
Kevin then turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”
It’s not the food. It’s the fellowship. Which is all about our relationship... to God. Individually and collectively. Communion is the high point expression of who we are with Christ - in Christ - because of Christ.
But then Paul warns them - but if you participate with a wrong heart level attitude - take communion together without sitting down together as one body in Christian fellowship with the depth of what that means - then you are as guilty as those who betrayed Jesus and sent Him to the cross.
Are we hearing Paul? When we’re taking communion, we’re either proclaiming Jesus or we’re proclaiming ourselves. Taking communion together either draws us closer together or drives us apart and into condemnation.
Paul writes - 1 Corinthians 11:28, “Let a person examine himself…”
Which we’ve heard. Yes?
To examine means testing - discerning - an honest assessment of what’s really going on in our hearts in order to have what’s going on in our hearts what God wants going on in our hearts.
It is crucial
for us to take Paul’s warning seriously. That
we do that honest assessment of what’s really going on
in our hearts by inviting God to make that assessment
and to invite God to make the necessary corrections. Because
2,000 years of church history tells us that we all
struggle with this.
Communion especially - but any time we gather - or in whatever God calls us to do together - we need to individually and collectively - we need God to do His work in our hearts that we would love each other sacrificially as Jesus commands us to love each other - and by His work within us to enable us to experience together the depth of God glorifying fellowship of what it means to be in Christ - with Christ - because of Christ.
What Paul is doing here in these verses is helping the Corinthians to look at their actions and so to examine their relationships with others in the church. To do a heart level attitude check. Which encourages us to do a heart level - opening our lives to God - examining our heart attitude in relationship with others here at Creekside.
Breaking of bread mingles worship - Love God - with the fellowship of communion - Love Others.
100% all in devotion - being committed to that as the priority of our lives - to the breaking of bread opens us up - individually and as a congregation - opens us up to God using worship and communion to draw us closer to each other and to Him.
Processing all that…
Hang on to this: We need to be devoted to the breaking of bread - loving God - loving others - because we need each other and because together we need God.
A few years back I came across an article written by Jason Johansen. The title of the article is “Going to Church Alone.”
Jason writes, “About 10 years ago, I grew disillusioned with the church I had attended all my life. I continued to attend, but I avoided the people there. I kept greetings brief and conversations superficial. I came late and left quickly after the service. It surprised me how easy it was to hide in plain sight in church, especially when I had been active there my whole life. What surprised me even more since then is how common this experience is.” (1)
Does that resonate? Maybe that’s how you’re feeling this morning?
It is deeply concerning how alone we can feel in a group - even with people that we’ve been around for a very long time. That we know a whole lot about. But don’t really know. Or that don’t really know us. Or don’t even seem to want to know us. Even people that we worship with and fellowship with.
For as long as people have been people we have a desire to know others and to be known. Not just superficially. But to have relationships where people genuinely know and care about us - what moves us on the heart level. Where there are people that we know who we know will watch our backs. Will help us up when we stumble. And where we can do that for others.
And yet - reality check - in the places where we do life - for as long as people have been people - there is always a struggle for us to resist that. To pull back from that level of intimacy.
Ironically, we fear the intimacy we crave.
All of which doesn’t change suddenly when we talk about being the church. Isolation happens. The danger being that we can come here and do worship together - maybe even share a cup of coffee - and leave without ever having experienced a meaningful relationship with anyone. What it means for us to experience being the church God intends for us to be.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us: “Let us consider [we need to be devoted together - we need to be thinking together - to find ways together] to stir up one another [to push each other forward and encourage each other] to love and good works [at the heart level and in our actions - to be what it means to live together as Christ’s Body], not neglecting [not abandoning or deserting or letting slide or giving a lesser priority] to meet together [but to be devoted to our gathering as the church - not to neglect that gathering], as is the habit of some [which is the custom of some claiming to be Christians - which in all honesty comes naturally to all of us], but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day [Jesus is coming back] drawing near.” [there’s a crucial urgency to this] (Hebrews 10:24,25)
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.
Breaking of bread - loving God - loving others - is what God uses to draw us into that. Because in the breaking of bread we acknowledge together our brokenness and isolation and wounding and inability and fear and our desperation for God.
In the breaking of bread the focus is not on us but God. In the breaking of bread our desire together is for the presence and power of God alone. In the breaking of bread our faith and trust is in Him alone.
In the breaking of bread we come together - pleading with God - God alone Who can supernaturally bind together generally unlike people and use them for His purposes and His glory. Which He will do if we will trust Him to do that.
We need to be devoted to the breaking of bread - loving God - loving others - because we need each other and because together we need God.
1. “Going To Church Alone” - Jason Johansen, Leadership Journal, Fall 2013
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.