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Mosaic Spokane

Church Essentials - Ch. 28

Church Essentials

The Story—Week #28

Acts 1-4

[Warning:  I’m only going to teach about 15 minutes today.  The rest of the time, we’re going to “be” the church together.  So get ready because we’re ALL going to be the ministers to each other today!]

INTROHuman life depends upon hundreds if not thousands of essential elements of life:

  • Chemical essentials: all organisms are built from the same six essential elemental ingredients: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur (CHNOPS)
  • Biological essentials: Living organisms must be able to perform 8 life functions to be a living organism: 

R- Respiration—breakdown of nutrients to yield chemical energy
R- Regulation—nervous or endocrine system
R- Reproduction—living things produce new living things of the same kind
E- Excretion—getting rid of waste products
G- Growth—increase in size or cell numbers
N- Nutrition—taking in materials from your environment for growth or repair
T- Transport—absorption and circulation of usable materials
S- Synthesis—smaller, simpler substances are combined chemically to form larger, more complex substances

  • Physics “fine tuning” essentials: From galaxies and stars, down to atoms and subatomic particles, the very structure of our universe is determined by very precise numbers.

These are the fundamental constants and quantities of the universe. Scientists have come to the shocking realization that each of these numbers have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value - a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair's breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There'd be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry.

Take gravity for example. The force of gravity is determined by the gravitational constant. If this constant varied by just one in 1060 parts, none of us would exist. To understand how exceedingly narrow this life-permitting range is, imagine a dial divided into 1060 increments. To get a handle on how many tiny points on the dial this is, compare it to the number of cells in your body (1014) or the number of seconds that have ticked by since time began (1020). If the gravitational constant had been out of tune by just one of these infinitesimally small increments, the universe would either have expanded and thinned out so rapidly that no stars could form and life couldn't exist, or it would have collapsed back on itself with the same result: no stars, no planets, no life.

Other Examples:

* Speed of Light: c=299,792,458 m s-1

* Gravitational Constant: G=6.673 x 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2

* Planck's Constant: 1.05457148 x 10-34 m2 kg s-2

* Planck Mass-Energy: 1.2209 x 1022 MeV

* Mass of Electron, Proton, Neutron: 0.511; 938.3; 939.6 MeV

* Mass of Up, Down, Strange Quark: 2.4; 4.8; 104 MeV (Approx.)

* Ratio of Electron to Proton Mass: (1836.15)-1

* Gravitational Coupling Constant: 5.9 x 10-39

* Cosmological Constant: (2.3 x 10-3 eV)

* Hubble Constant: 71 km/s/Mpc (today)

* Higgs Vacuum Expectation Value: 246.2 GeV
[Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/transcript-fine-tuning-argument#ixzz44m9omfmv]

  • Environmental essentials: could talk about temperature, night/day, water, food, clean air, etc.

Now, it is possible to be alive but live in a very diminished capacity if you are lacking sufficient amounts of “essentials.”  But if you go very long totally deprived of those essentials, you will eventually die, sometimes sooner…and sometimes later… depending on just how “essential” the missing ingredient is (oxygen vs. water, food, etc.).

Just as human life depends on certain essentials, so the life of God’s people, the Church, depends on various essentials.  I’m not talking about the “church” as in an institution…or building…or group of people.  All of that can continue, and often does, without the “essentials” we’re going to talk about this morning.

We’re in week #28 of our chronological journey through the Bible.  We’re in the book of Acts in the N.T., a book covering the history of the birth and expansion of the worldwide Church. 

That word “church” that we throw around rather casually today is a word that has been freighted with lots of different concepts and meanings throughout the past 20 centuries.  As such, it is very possible that every one of us in this room today has some faulty ideas or concepts about “church” that probably need to be changed, discarded or buried.  For example…

  • If someone asks you this week, “Did you go to church last week?” what will you respond?
  • When someone asks you, “Tell me about your church,” how will you describe us?
  • If someone says to you, “I’m a Christian but I don’t think I have to be part of an organized church,” what might you respond?

Our answers to questions like that reveals what we really think about this thing called “church.” 

            The Bible uses a Greek word, ekklesia, for our English word “church.”  In its most literal form, ekklesia simply means “called out.”  But when Jesus picked up that term and began to apply it to the group of people he was creating that would become His bride in the future, his followers, He infused it with new meaning it didn’t have before. 

            Without going into great detail on this word, ekklesia, suffice it to say that the N.T. writers used that word in two basic ways:

  • To refer to people who believed in Jesus Christ and thus became part of His “church”, whatever that means (as we shall see).
  • Simply a gathering of people with no religious or spiritual significance. An example of this usage is found in Acts 19 where there is a riot unfolding because of the impact the Gospel was having on the idol-makers’ businesses.  It was, according to them, cutting into their profits.  Too many people were converting to Jesus and leaving their idols behind.  So 3 times the term “ekklesia” is used in this chapter (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).  In two cases it simply refers to the “assembly” of riotous people.  Once it refers to a “legal assembly” or “regular gathering” of the town’s people. 

Two other times it is used in the N.T. to talk about the O.T. “congregation” or “assembly” of God’s people prior to Jesus’ coming. 

The remaining 109 or the total of 114 times this term is used in the N.T. ALL refer to God’s “church” in some capacity.  But if you examine every one of those 109 occurrences, you find that they group into roughly 3 different types of “church”:

  • The Church universal. (20%)
  • Local house churches (4-9%)
  • The church (singular) in a city (Jerusalem, Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, etc.) (70-75%)

What’s important for our purposes today is simply that we are looking at THE very first “church,” the actual beginning of THE CHURCH in the world.  It is the church in the city of Jerusalem.  And it starts in Acts 2.  Let’s read about it.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

            Now, we know that what led up to this was 10 days of secluded, “Upper Room,” prayer (Acts 1:14) by the 120 (1:15).  This is really the launching of the church, the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to His followers to “be with/in them” until He returns. 

            We could spend the whole morning looking at what the Holy Spirit did with the early church.  But allow me to just summarize it for you.  I’d encourage you to sometime study that topic out just in the book of Acts.  It’s fascinating. 

  • Acts 1:5-- For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Acts 1:8-- But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
  • Acts 2:4-- All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Peter preaches to the crowd and cites the prophet Joel’s prophecy from Joel 2:28-32 to describe what they are observing:  (Acts 2:17-18)

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

  • Acts 2:38-- 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.

Moving on to Acts 4 where Peter and John are detained and questioned by the Sanhedrin, Luke, the author of Acts, tells us that Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit”, preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the very people who had crucified Jesus weeks or months earlier.  The healing of the paralytic in the Temple (Acts 3) had caused such a stir in the city that thousands of people were listening to the Apostles and considering becoming followers of Jesus.  But Luke records specifically what the Holy Spirit at work in God’s people produced.

  • Acts 4:8-- Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people….”

After they were threatened and told to stop preaching about Jesus, the church in Jerusalem went to prayer.  And again, God filled them with His Spirit who, in turn, filled them with the Gospel and boldness to share/witness with others. 

  • Acts 4:31-- After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Here’s the first ESSENTIAL of the church: the Holy Spirit.  We know that developing in the experience of prayer had a lot to do with God’s people being filled with the Holy Spirit.  It had a lot to do with them being bold about sharing the Gospel.  It had a lot to do with the conviction that fell on people needing Christ.  It had a lot to do with the miracles the early church experienced.  And it certainly had a lot to do with the kind of life and experiences they shared together. 

APP:  The question is, how much does the Holy Spirit have to do with our lives, our church, the church of Jesus in this city?

For the next 4 ESSENTIALS of the church, go to the end of Acts 2:42-47.  Let me just point them out and then I’m going to cut you lose to apply these essentials to your life and Mosaic…today!

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  STOP!  Here are the 4 essentials of any healthy, vibrant, impactful church:

  • People are devoted to biblical teaching.

Mt. 28:18-20“…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you….”

  • People are devoted to

Koinonia = to share with someone in something; have in common (Jesus Christ”: I Cor. 1:9—“…called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Holy Spirit: 2 Cor. 13:14—“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  The Father: I Jn. 1:3—“…that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

  • People are devoted to shared meals/Lord’s supper.

It’s not clear whether this is shared meals or specifically the Lord’s Table…or both! Wasn’t Jesus calling on us to turn the simplest elements of the Jewish meal, of bread and wine, into a remembrance of what He did for us?  What if every meal we shared with family, brothers and sisters, somehow reminded us of Jesus. 

I Cor. 11:17-34—the Love Feast—over-indulging and under-fed. 

  • People are devoted to prayer (lit. “the prayers”).

The Jews were in the habit of going to the temple to pray (Ac. 3:1—Pt. and John go to the Temple at the “time of prayer”, 3 p.m.)  Jesus saw the Temple as His Father’s house of prayer (Mt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17; Lk. 19:46).

Everything that follows is a result of those 4 devotions.  While we may not be able to draw a direct line from a particular devotion to a particular result, Luke is clearly making the connection between these 4 devotions and the quality of life the Jerusalem church experienced.

            So here is my question:  How did these 4 devotions produce, lead to or help create the kind of results we read about in vss. 43-47?

43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

[Notice all the present, active, participles that tell us HOW these things were experienced and/or accomplished.  It was a “day by day” lifestyle.

NASB--46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.]

Silent Prayer, listening to God's Spirit for what, in the next month, He would like you to do in any of these areas of church essentials.

Discussion Application Questions

BIBLICAL TEACHING: 

  • How do we know if a church is “devoted to the apostle’s teaching” (the Gospel of Christ)?
  • What are the ways we are devoted to biblical truth at Mosaic?
  • What could we do as a church to experience deeper devotion to all Jesus Christ taught and commanded us to do?
  • What do you think the Holy Spirit might be asking you to do this month to be devoted to God’s Word?

FELLOWSHIP

  • If fellowship is sharing the life of God together, how do you experience God when you spend time with God’s people?
  • What kinds of fellowship experiences have been most memorable or made the most impact in your life?
  • What makes it difficult to be “devoted to fellowship” in our culture or our life styles?
  • What do you wish we would do (or do more) at Mosaic that would help you experience great fellowship with others?

SHARED MEALS:

  • How can we practice this more in our homes/apartments/lives?
  • What are some obstacles to sharing meals together as God’s people? What makes it easier today than the 1st century?
  • How would you like to see us do more shared meals at Mosaic?
  • If you made it a goal to share one or more meals every week with other believers, how could that change your experience of God?

What might your conversation include to be spiritually helpful every meal? 

PRAYER:

  • Why would you say it is important for a church to have a strong prayer experience together?
  • What do you think a church that is devoted to prayer does to earn that reputation?
  • What are the obstacles to being a church that is devoted to prayer?
  • What would you like to see Mosaic do to grow our prayer experience together?

 

 

 

 

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