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 “The Outflow of Genuine Worship”

Feb.5, 2017 – Acts 2:42-47


Today we’re following up with the theme chosen by IF:Gathering 2017, a simulcast experience attended by many women the past couple of days. Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church at its healthiest and most positive – gathering, learning, worshipping, sharing, rejoicing. Looking at many churches dotting the landscape today, one might be tempted to ask, “What changed?” How come many people’s associations of “church” do not match that we find in Acts 2?

             Many men this weekend will find themselves watching a televised event which is not geared to religious purposes like IF:Gathering was...I’m referring to the Super Bowl! Yet, here, an analogy to church can be drawn.

             Bud Wilkinson, a famous football coach, was once asked, “What contribution does professional sport make to the physical fitness of Americans?” To no one’s surprise, he answered, “Very little. A professional football game is a happening where 50,000 spectators, desperately needing exercise, sit in the stands watching 22 men on the field, desperately needing rest.” That could also be a description of the typical modern church organization! Why don’t more churchgoers get excited and step onto the field, instead preferring the relative inactivity of the stands, the ‘comfortable pew’?


To find out what energized believers in the early church of Acts 2, we first need to back up and look at the circumstances, what caused them to get all fired up about their faith in the first place. Their response to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost is key. We can sum up their response in 5 “R’s” - Realization; Remorse; Repentance; Redemption; and Regeneration. These were necessary precursors to the dynamically alive church we find at the end of Acts 2.

             1) REALIZATION: Peter had preached a sermon to explain the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, with tongues of fire and exclamations of God’s wonders in foreign languages, which onlookers observed as Acts 2:12 puts it, “amazed and perplexed”. Peter proceeded to explain the coming of the Spirit in light of prophecy from the prophet Joel; that God had raised up His servant Jesus and was allowing Him to pour out this Holy Spirit. The coming of the Spirit was proof of the bottom line as Peter put it in 2:36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” This must have been a shocking, breathtaking REALIZATION for all those who had witnessed Jesus’ ministry and tortured death.

             Peter went on to explain in v40, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."” We need to realize God calls us to be different from the sinners we once were, to be saved from the corrupt ways of the world, that we need a Saviour – namely, Jesus. We are guilty! Everything’s NOT A-OK. Our earthly standards are upside down from God’s viewpoint. “This Jesus, WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED, God has made Lord and Christ.” So, what are we going to do about it?

             2) REMORSE - Acts 2:37 “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"” As if to say, “Oh, no! How can we get ourselves out of this mess?” We need to feel godly REMORSE over our lostness, to recognize the weight of our guilt and shamefulness, in order to become true Christians and engaged churchgoers. Peter and the apostles offered their listeners the right steps to take.

             3) REPENT and be baptized: v38 “Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” REPENT, turn from your sin, acknowledge its awfulness and renounce it. If you think you’re ‘quite all right’ on your own steam and don’t really need a Saviour, you’re getting by on your own wit and resources – church is not the place for you! Jesus calls us to repent, to leave behind our old ways and embrace Him and God’s ways. We need to be washed and cleansed: so we submit to the rite of baptism, which is a visual symbol of the forgiveness God provides for us. In becoming obedient to the practice of baptism, our heart is humbled. There is no ‘fresh start’, no genuine joy, in Christianity apart from repentance.

             A boy got his hand caught inside an expensive vase. His upset parents tried everything they could think of – applying soap suds and cooking oil, without success. They just couldn’t get his hand out of the opening. When they seemed ready to break the vase as the only way to release the hand, the frightened boy cried, “Would it help if I let go of the dime I’m holding?”

             Repentance involves letting go of the sin and temptations that would hold us captive – if we would experience how Christ wants us to be truly free.

             4) REDEMPTION: In the gospel we learn that Jesus gave His life as an atoning substitute for ours, so we might be forgiven. He has REDEEMED us, bought us back for God, at the price of His own life. Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized...in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS.” Somebody’s gotta pay the price! That’s what Jesus was doing for us on the cross. He has bought us for Himself, baptism puts His Name on us, He “owns” us – we relinquish any right to do things independently on our own, which got us into sin in the first place. Redeemed, we are now HIS.

             5) REGENERATION: or, RECEIVE – as the Holy Spirit comes into our lives through faith, we are born-again. V38 “And you will RECEIVE the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5f, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Paul spells it out further in 1Cor 2:12&14, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us...The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

             Why are YOU in church? Is it force of habit? Because your parents brought you? Because you view church as a social club, a place to hob-nob with higher-class people in the community? Wrong! If that’s the kind of people that make up our churches, we shouldn’t be surprised our experience of church is so far from that of Acts 2. REAL Christians, the authentic church, consists of those who have come to a Realization; experienced Remorse; chosen to Repent; been Redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice at the cross; and become Regenerated, born again, by receiving the Holy Spirit. A true Christian’s heart and will have been broken, crushed, and tenderly re-assembled by the Master’s gentle touch.


NOW, given that foundation of crushed gravel, repentant souls, we can go on to consider the hallmarks that made the early church so special, so appealing, so people were drawn to it like hummingbirds to sugar-water. If there were 5 R’s in the preparation, here we find 5 C’s in vv 42-47.

             1) COMMITMENT: v42 “They DEVOTED themselves to the apostles’ teaching...” To devote yourself to something is to totally give yourself over to it. The Greek term means to adhere, be constant to, be steadfastly attentive. To devote yourself is to practise COMMITMENT.

             What do you give your attention to? North Americans these days give a lot of attention to their screens, be it TV, Android box, computer, tablet, smartphone...There’s a sign going around Facebook that was posted at a daycare reminding parents to put away their phone when they’re picking up their child, and actually make eye contact with them. I wonder if the Lord would like a little more of our focus sometimes, too; attentiveness is an indicator of commitment.

             Committing ourselves, devoting ourselves, frees us from the shackles of conceit and self-interest. A lot of people come to church with a “consumer mentality”, asking, “What can the church do for me? How many programs does it offer for my family?” That’s the wrong approach. Dr FB Meyer said: “It is urgently needful that the Christian people of our charge should come to understand that they are not a company of invalids, to be wheeled about, or fed by hand, cosseted, nursed, and comforted, the minister being the Head Physician and Nurse; but a garrison in an enemy’s country, every soldier of shich should have some post or duty, at which he should be prepared to make any sacrifice rather than quitting.” THAT is being devoted, committed!

             2) CONTENT – note the focus of the early Christians’ attention in v42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ TEACHING...” They had the apostles there in-the-flesh, ready to share all kinds of stories and parables and instruction from Jesus’ life. Where do we find that now? The New Testament! Also the apostles were making all kinds of connections between Jesus’ life and the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah’s coming. So, in short, the content of an alive church’s teaching needs to be the BIBLE. Set aside time each day for your devotions. Try to hook up with a small group where you can reflect on Scripture from diverse vantage points, discuss what it means today, and help each other apply it to your life situations.

             3) CONNECTING: But church is far more than just an intellectual head-trip; they didn’t just devote themselves to teaching. V42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching AND to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They CONNECTED with other believers – fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. These are corporate activities, things done in a group. “Breaking of bread” here means the Lord’s Supper, whereas in v46 it probably refers more generally to just eating together, though perhaps they often tacked on communion as well in their own homes. They prayed together – small groups again, and the regular worship in the Temple, for most of them were still Jewish at this point.

             The Greek term translated ‘fellowship’ here is koinonia, holding things in common, to be a “partner”, feel a sense of partnership. Do you feel that with your fellow LWCFers, that you’re “in this together”? That you have an obligation to each other? You’re making ‘common cause’ for the gospel of Jesus?

             On the point of CONNECTING in fellowship, note how many times the word “together” occurs in these few verses: V44 “All the believers were TOGETHER...” V46 “Every day they continued to meet TOGETHER in the temple courts.They broke bread in their homes and ate TOGETHER...” How many times last year did you invite other people form your church family to get ‘together’, whether at your home or somewhere out? If you want a strong church, make a point of getting TOGETHER. It’s in those one-on-one settings you feel safe enough to share things that would never get mentioned otherwise.

             A man was walking down the street and passed a used-book store. In the window, a book with the title “How to Hug” caught his attention. Being of a somewhat romantic nature, he went in to buy the book, but when he picked it up he realized it was the seventh volume of an encyclopedia covering the subjects from “How” through to “Hug”.

             The church is a place where love ought to be manifested. Yet many people have come to church hoping to find a hug, a demonstration of love – only to discover an encyclopedia on theology! We need the CONTENT, definitely – yet #1 of Jesus’ commands was, “Love one another.” Find ways to CONNECT.

             4) [review - Commitment, Content, Connecting] CHARITABLE: The early church was remarkable in the way everyone shared their possessions. They were generous to those in need. Vv44-45 “All the believers were together and had everything in common.Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Wouldn’t this stand out in a materialistic, “toys-conscious” society like ours? Wouldn’t this be a real test of how genuinely COMMITTED we are? It can all sound very nice and ‘motherhood and apple pie’-ish until you have to reach for your pocketbook, your debit card. Helping sponsor people to go on mission trips (like Tiffany and Dawn, in Niagara and Haiti) would be an example of pooling resources to help others carry out their sense of Christ’s calling, helping them exercise their gifts. I am very thankful our Church Council recommended, and congregation accepted the challenge, of ‘bumping up’ our budget target of giving to local, national, and international missions this year!

             Note we’re not talking about communism here: people retained ownership technically of their property; Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:4 retained the right to dispose of their real estate proceeds however they wished. In v45 believers sold “their possessions and goods” on an as-needed basis, voluntarily. But there was a sense of unselfishness, they didn’t count things as belonging to themselves (Acts 4:32), they held their possessions loosely, ready to be at others’ disposal where warranted. NRSV v45 “they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” - ‘distribute’ as in dividing up a pie. NLT they “shared everything they had” (v44), they “shared the money with those in need” (v45), they “shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (v46): SHARING is the emphasis.

             It’s not about being lopsided. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 2Cor 8:13 “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.” We help compensate for each other’s lacks.

             Years ago, 2 students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton, and when he received his honour, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had first met one another in school when the armless Kaspryzak had guided the blind Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books that the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the deficiency of each individual was compensated for by the other’s ability.

             5) CHEERFUL: Why are churches too often so GLUM? Is it because we’re afraid of being judged by others for our appearance, our tardiness, our inattentiveness? That’s not based on grace, but guilt!

             Vv46-47 “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Genuine GLADNESS attracts attention – “I wonder what’s making that person so cheerful?” The Greek term behind “glad” means “exuberant joy” – now there’s a thought not usually associated with Sunday worship!! It won’t break your face to smile warmly at someone, and it might just make all the difference to how they’re feeling.

             “Sincere” hearts – simple, single, ‘free from rocks’ i.e.smooth. Is it the clutter of concerns and worries in our hearts that’s robbing our joy? What can we hive off, let go of, so our heart’s focus is more attentive to God?

             V47 “praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.” The Greek term behind ‘favour’ is literally ‘grace’. Christianity is not a guilt-based but GRACE-based religion. We praise God for His grace, unmerited favour, demonstrated on our behalf in Jesus Christ. Appreciating the preciousness of God, of being saved, of fellowship with Him and His people, ought to cause our hearts to surge with gladness.


A missionary became a good friend of a pearl diver in India. The two had spent many hours together discussing salvation, but the native of India could not understand anything so precious being free. Instead, in making preparation for the life to come, the diver was planning to walk the 900 miles to Delhi on his knees! He thought this would buy entrance into heaven for him. The missionary struggled to communicate to his friend that it’s impossible to buy entrance into heaven because the price would be too costly. Instead, he said, Jesus had tied to buy it for us.

             Before the diver from India left for his pilgrimage, he gave the missionary the largest and most perfect pearl he’d ever seen. The missionary offered to buy it, but the diver became upset and said the pearl was beyond price: you see, his only son had lost his life in the attempt to get it. The pearl was worth the life blood of his son.

             As he said this, suddenly “the light went on” – the diver understood that God was offering him salvation as a priceless gift: it’s so precious that no one could afford to buy it. It had cost God the life’s blood of His Son. The veil was lifted; he understood at last. Let’s pray.