The Core of Discipleship
If you’re joining us, I want to welcome you and I’m going to invite you to two chapters of the Bible we’re going look at as we go through this series together. We’re going to be in Genesis chapter two, the first book of the Bible, Acts chapter two, the fifth book of the New Testament. We’re going to focus on those two areas and we’re going to bridge a theological theme and talk about this new series that we’re in together on “The Core.” The core for us as a church is putting a target on a map as to why we exist. One of the things that we definitely do not want to do, we gather on Sunday mornings, we’re not meeting just to meet.
My wife and I, we moved here 12 years ago and we started the ABC eight or nine years ago. And we’ve had a wonderful families come be a part of that and help us grow and build and allow the Lord to use us to see his kingdom pronounced and his church established here. And we’re just enjoying that journey. We definitely did not move all the way across the country, away from family and friends, just to be like we should meet on Sunday cause you’re supposed to meet on Sunday. That is ridiculous. We have a plan, a purpose for which God has designed his church that we want to live in light of. And so we’re in this series together talking about that. Putting a target on the map, what it means for us to win. And we’re going to use these four words as our theme to build that basis. And in these four words, we’re going to spend the first two weeks setting up a theological framework.
We started this last week. And into this week, setting up a theological framework and then talk about how it practically applies to where we are today. So the next two weeks we’re going to be heavy into the application and how that specifically relates to our church and what we feel like God has called us to in this valley.
But we’re looking at these, these theme ideas of worship, discipleship, relationship and mission and what God wants to accomplish in us and through us as his family. And last week we started off with the idea of worship. That God created you as a worshipful being and God created you as a relational being. And we looked at a couple of important passages. One is the greatest command. God said that he created us and the greatest command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and the second one like that to love others.
And so your love for the Lord should be reflected in your relationship with others. You look at those two greatest commands, the relational commands. So God didn’t create you primarily for religious performance, but relationship in him. God’s desires for you to know him and to enjoy him for all of eternity. And in that relationship that impacts the relationships around you. And so we said the theme of our church, very simplistic. We want everyone to experience a transforming relationship with Christ that transforms your relationships in this world. To know Jesus and let him just speak into our hearts and our lives and to let that impact lives around us. And we even talked about how that happens to the ends of the earth.
By the way, this past Saturday, yesterday, a lot of you were here laboring. Some of you stopped by visit. We had that outreach that we were doing. The fall festival for India to help with the lepers and orphans in India that we helped sponsor. All the money is not in for that yet, but it’s somewhere between $10,000 or maybe a little bit over is what we’re expecting to come in. So we want to say thank you for that. But the point is that’s what God does in our lives.
He transforms our hearts and gives us a passion in particular areas as it relates to people. And that gets to live itself out. And we saw that demonstrated on Saturday. It’s a beautiful thing when God does that in his family. So thank you for everyone that was involved in that. How about a round of applause too for those individuals that really helped with part of that. Appreciate that.
God works in us and through us to do those things. He created you for that beautiful purpose. But here’s what happens when it comes to worship. You are a relational being designed for worship. It’s impossible not to worship something. But when God created you, he recognizes that there’s also a worship war taking place, because you have freedom.
When it comes to the idea of love and responding in love in a relationship, you have the ability with that to also not love. And so there’s freedom in that. And we talked about last week, Matthew 16:18, that God built his church for a specific purpose to storm down the gates of hell. And we looked at the idea of what a gate represents. And in ancient times when you lived in a fortified city, people look for those places because you felt protected. You weren’t outside for bandits and raiders to take advantage of you. But you were in the protection of the city. And what controlled that city was the gates. And if you were a traveler going into a city and you wanted to meet someone with power, influence, making decisions over that area, you would go to the gates. That’s where they ruled and reigned.
That’s where you received wisdom and you spoke to leadership. And so when Jesus says he builds his church to storm down the gates, what he’s also recognizing is that there’s influences that are not good. And we think about the gates, we often think about the gates of hell. We often think about Satan and his dominion. And the Bible is very clear that he has authority and power. He’s referred to as the Prince of Power of the air, Ephesians chapter two. And the ruler of this world, second Corinthians chapter four. The angel of Light, 2 Corinthians chapter 12. A lion that roars in 1 Peter chapter 5 and 8. The accuser of the brethren and the accuser of God’s church, Revelation chapter 12. Satan has dominion. And the one of the things that Satan is great at is not getting you to say I’m a worshiper of Satan, but rather to stop worshiping the Lord and start worshiping yourself.
And when you look in the book of Genesis, when Satan is in the garden with Adam and Eve, he comes to Eve and he starts to challenge, “Surely God didn’t say that? You need to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. And that will allow you to tell God what’s right and wrong and you put yourself in the position of God.” And so there is a worship war that happens in all of us. And when it talk about the gates of hell ruling our lives, it’s not us going around and being like, I’m a worship Satan. Hooray. It’s us going around saying everything that exists in life is for me and my glory. And so what that means is as human beings, we like to see ourselves as an end. But rather when God created you, he created you as a means to an end.
And that means to the end is for his glory. God created you for his relationship in him. And so rather than be an end in ourselves, we’re a means to an end. And we as human beings do not like that. We want to be about our rule and authority and power. Now, we would never go around and be like, I’m God of my life. But the decisions we make kind of look at things that exist in this world as if everything exists is all about me because I am God. And so the challenges when it comes to the gates of hell is to recognize God created you for a bigger purpose than that. God created you for his glory. But it’s to your benefit. And in fact, when you look at, we’ll talk about this next week, the fruit of the spirit. When God comes into our lives, his Spirit indwells us and the fruit of the spirit becomes a part of our lives, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness. Wonderful things for us to experience.
But all starts with us saying to the Lord, “Lord, I am not God of my life. You are. And I’m surrendering myself for your glory.” And we lay ourselves down in worship to the Lord to allow him to utilize us for his glory, to our benefit. And today when we talk about our church, I’m going to take the idea of worship a little bit further, a little more specific, and talk about how worship becomes discipleship. And I’m going to carry the idea of a theme as it relates to Jesus being our king and us being the disciples. Disciples of our king. And in Genesis chapter 2, that story starts to unfold and it creates for us a picture that really is carried out through the course of the rest of scripture. And so if you get this idea painted in Genesis chapter 2, it helps create a particular idea in your mind to understand the rest of scripture.
I want to be honest and tell you when it comes to the Bible, this might be, Genesis chapter 1, 2, and 3, it might be my favorite section in all of scripture. I feel like the theology of all of the Bible is contained in the first three chapters of Genesis. I love this section of scripture. And especially chapter two, it creates a certain idea within our minds that helps shape our identity in God’s plan for our existence. And when you get the Genesis chapter two, starting off in the very first section of this chapter, it says, thus the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts. So God’s creating. If you know that creative story, seven days, it talks about. And on the seventh it says in verse two, God completed his work, which he had done. And he rested on the seventh day from all his work, which he had done.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it, he rested from all his work, which God had created and made. I want you to know, when you read this passage of scripture, oftentimes we completely miss what was intended to be understood in the time that Moses is writing this. The way that they would have perceived it in this time period. We looked at things like, and that’s why we go to church on Sunday. And oh my word, God’s resting. Does he not care about me? Did he ever get off the couch? I mean, what is he doing here? He creates, he rests, and he’s done with us? Oh my word. We blew it that quick. Does God not love me? What does this mean for us?
When you look at the beginning of creation, starting in Genesis chapter one, you see the beautiful story unfolding. It’s written poetically. Very descriptive, very intentional, very specific. How God makes all of these things. And so Genesis chapter one, this is what happens. God speaks on the first day. Things come into existence. And when it gets to the end of that day, it says the evening and the morning, the first day was complete. And you see this nice ending to day one. Day two, same thing. God speaks, things come into existence. A few verses later, evening and morning of that day is ended. And then day three begins and God speaks. And so you see this theme and it’s neat when you look how it correlates because day one matches day four and day two matches day five and day three matches day six, which I don’t have time to get into, but God’s creating all of this. And you see the morning and the evening and then all of a sudden he gets to the seventh day, and he rests.
What in the world does that mean? Did God stopped doing stuff? Does God care? Did God get tired? Well, when you study scripture, you see in Isaiah 40:28, it tells us God does not get tired. So what’s being communicated in this narrative, this poetic narrative describing creation isn’t that God has this energy that comes to an end. But rather God is self-sustaining in himself and he does not run out. He does not become tired. But when you look at creation, you see this beautiful thing unfolding, right? God’s intentional, God’s purposeful. This didn’t happen by chance. God has a particular design in everything that he did. And when you get to day six, he then creates the crown of his creation, which is the last thing that he designs before he rests. And the crown of his creation is humanity.
And when God creates you, it tells us in chapter two, verse seven, he breathes into you this breath of life. And that breathing is more than just like, okay, you’re there. But it’s a word of intimacy. God draws close to you and he breathes life into you. And at the same time, when it’s telling us he brings life into us, just before that, it tells us that he forms us. And so it’s saying something unique about your creation as the last part of creation, that God created everything else, he spoke it into existence. But when God makes you, he takes the time to do it intricately. He’s very personal in the purpose for which he’s designing you. And he breathes into you that breath of life, making you the crown of creation. And then he rests.
Now, what in the world does that mean? Well, rest in this context is “shabbat”, it’s where we get to the word later for Sabbath, which the Jews use as Saturday as their time of worship. But this word for “shabbat” also comes from shabbat, which means to cease. And shabbat is saying, when God’s creative work, his creative work that happens in the first six days, it ceases and then God is now doing something different. Now what is he doing? Well, this word host gives us a little bit of detail, but I’m going play on this word for rest on the seventh day for a minute. Just whatever God is doing in this rest, it’s something that has not ended. Because when you look at the first six days of creation, it says morning and evening, and then it was the next day. Morning and evening, and then it’s the next day. When you get to the seventh day, there is no morning and evening. Meaning on the seventh day, what God does here, it’s something that is happening continually. This has not ended.
And so when we talk about this rest ceasing, there’s this transition taking place. In ancient times they would have understood exactly what was happening here. Because this word “host” gives us an idea of what God’s doing. This word host translated literally means an army. And so what you see here is a leader, a ruler. The type of person that has an army is a king. And so in this design of creation, God is showing his dominion, his authority, the expanse of his kingdom. And by the way, it happens to include all of the heavens and earth. Everything created. That’s what this king rules over and he’s got his army with him. And so when God is resting, or he ceasing, it’s not saying he’s stopping from whatever he intended to do, but rather now he’s letting it play out. So God creates, divine design, intentionally, purposely, you become the crown of his creation and then he pauses from his creative work and he sits on his throne. And so what it’s saying to us is God is ruling and reigning. And that has not ended. Beautifully, masterfully, he shaped you in this world.
Then the question becomes, what happened? If you made us to enjoy you forever? And you look around right now. I mean, we got armies and police, we lock our doors at night and we’re worried about where we set our purses. And you know, we just stress out about things. Not me. I don’t carry a purse. But you know what I’m saying, right? That there’s something wrong with the way God originally designed things. But just hold onto that. We’ll talk about that in just a minute. You hold onto that thought. And then when you look at the end of the Bible, look what it says. It says, talking about Jesus, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, behold, the Tabernacle of God is among men.” So Tabernacle means God’s dwelling place, “and he will dwell among them.
By the way, I’m getting attacked by flies. So if you see me do this, just pretend it’s praising Jesus, was what I was told by someone earlier. But we had a chili cook off this weekend, apparently flies like chili much as human beings. And so their were floating around today. But anyway, back to this.
So you hear a loud voice from the throne saying, behold, the Tabernacle of God is among men and he will dwell among them and they shall be his people and God himself will be among them. So you see that relationship you are created for and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death. There were no longer be any mourning or crying or pain. The first things have passed. And then he says this, he who sits on the Thrones, you see his ruling said, behold, I am making all things new. So God’s even recognizing in this passage that what he created everything for is not the way it’s looking right now. And so his design, his plan is to make those things new. And to renew those things in him.
And so what happened? God designs this for his glory, to our benefit. Crown of creation, this wonderful thing. And you see Genesis chapter two, the very beginning of the Bible, Revelation 21, the very end of the Bible. And here we are sandwiched in this chaos and that’s where we find ourselves today. And then you start to see from Genesis to Revelation 21, God unfolding this wonderful story. It carries the theme of our king and what it means to be a disciple. One of my favorite verses that kind of point to this identity, Isaiah 9:6, in talking about Jesus. Jesus by the way, is the one it tells us in Colassians 1:15-16, he’s the one that created everything. And in Isaiah 9, it gives us the promise of the coming of Jesus, when Jesus will become flesh. It says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us. So for us to find that identity, a child was born from a Virgin Mary, a son will be given who was from the Father in heaven.
So you see that the humanity and the deity of Jesus played out in this. A child will be born to us, a son will be given and the government will rest on his shoulders. So you see his ruling and authority and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor. So he brought, provides great counseling, Mighty God. So he’s Creator, Sustainer, look, Eternal Father, he’s referred to as a father. And then the word that I just want to highlight for us, the Prince of Peace.
So you see in that word “Prince” his ruling. At the same time, recognizing what we lost in sin being introduced in this world, in the garden of Eden, that peace. A peace you were created for with God. That the reason Jesus came. That relationship that we talk about. We want everyone to experience a transforming relationship with God. Jesus brings that peace, and let me tell you how beautiful this is. It really says to you that you can stop the war. And I told you we had a worship war happening in all of us.
When you get to this, this statement and what you see in this statement created throughout the rest of the scripture, this becomes the place where the war that rages within you gets to stop. Because Jesus has already paid for it all. Jesus has brought peace. There’s nothing that you do to add to it. Simply his love has been demonstrated on the cross that you finally in your life can find acceptance in him. I love this. This is such a healing place.
Whatever you struggle with in life, you get to start from a new beginning, because God wants to shape something in you and Jesus has already paid it off for you. So you don’t work your way to this, God’s already done it. Becoming flesh, dying on the cross. And so you think of everything in your life that you’re like, “This person may not accept me if they ever found this out, or I got to put on a front to pretend to be something I’m not so that people would embrace me,” and the struggle of all of that. And when it comes to Christ, you get let your hair down. God already sees it.
He loves you where you are and he loves you too much to leave you that way. He passionately loves you. We would even say excrutiatingly loves you, which means out of the cross, demonstrated in that. And so the Prince has come to establish this peace.
And if you see this theme throughout the Bible, he also communicates the way he brings that peace. You read in Genesis where we started the story, you know very early on in Genesis, starting at the end of chapter 11, God introduces us to a man from Ur of the Chaldeans. His name was Abrahm, that was later changed to Abraham. And he gives these promises to Abraham and one of the things that he says in your seed, all the nations of the Earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.
So God is pointing out to Abraham that through him the Messiah would come. And it’s important to recognize, we think when we read verses like this, we start thinking about the nation of Israel. But to be honest, I think Israel is included here, but this word that’s used isn’t seed plural. It’s seed singular. In fact, Paul refers back to this section when he’s writing Galatians 3:16 he says, through the seed that blessing would come referring to Jesus, one singular.
And so in Genesis 2:18, God calls out this small people group Israel to recognize that God can work anything out of any meager means. Israel, it tells us in Deuteronomy they were nothing in God’s eyes compared to the rest of the nations. They had nothing that would be impressive. But God chooses to work through them because he wants us to show how his redemptive hand can use anything for his glory. And he works with this people group to bless all nations.
You know, as the story starts to unfold, we’ve seen this in the Gospels that by and large, the the nation of Israel rejects, or the people of Israel reject God. Now, that’s not to say that to malign them. I think wherever Jesus decided to show up that they were just going to be people that in general would have rejected him. Whether he had been Greek or Roman or whatever. And so we could have been talking about that with any people grew. But he went to the Jewish people group. And from that, that people group rejected him. But the promise still remained, that all nations would be blessed.
And then when you read in Matthew 28, which we looked at together. Matthew 28, the end of the Gospel, this is what it says, and Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, this is after his resurrection, all authority has been given to me. So we see ruling on thrones, still king and his kingdom. All authority given into Christ in heaven and on Earth. So there’s his dominion again and the way that he desires to work, Genesis 2, Revelation 21, to bless all nations is through his people. And so it says this in 19, go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
So you see this theme carried out again. All nations being discussed here. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. So God calls his people on mission to bless all nations. And that theme of all nations carried still. Now that’s not to say in talking about how God is now moving through the church in the New Testament, that it’s to the abandonment of what God has done in the past. In fact, if you read Romans 9, 10, 11 it explains that to us very clearly, God is not done with any nations, not done with the Jewish people either.
But God rather now works through all nations because he called his church to reach all nations. So if you read Romans 9, you see Israel in the past rejected God. Romans 10 Paul’s prayer, his heart and desires for Israel, that they might come to a saving knowledge in God, though they have a zeal for God, it’s not according to knowledge. So there’s lots of people walking around claiming to know God, but it’s not the true God. And he’s saying that for the Jewish people.
So we get the Romans 11 you see God continuing to call out to them. And he also says in Romans 11, there’s a new group grafted in. And so we’re joining in God’s plan in this world, to bless the nations. And the idea of what he uses in this story, being played out as king ruling, is this thought of discipleship. What does it mean to be a disciple? Well, the word disciple, in its basic sense comes from the idea of discipline. That someone in order to identify with something, they discipline themselves, that it would shape who they are and what they do.
So I would say this morning, whatever has your heart, whatever you love, whatever you’re passionate about, to some degree or another, you are shaped in a certain discipline that reflects your appreciation for what that is. So in Christianity, in our context, we would say this, a disciple is a fully devoted follower of Jesus. We looked at Jesus, we call him King Jesus, and we want to reflect our King in this world. God, what do you look like and what does it look like to live like you in this world? That’s, that’s my desire. I am a disciple, I am a follower. And in our lives, as we said, it starts with worship.
You have a gate and what controls that becomes important, because that gate influences what you are about. And in that worship, we see a beautiful picture of this King who’s still ruling and reigning now working through his people. And so we asked the question, what in the world happened? We know sin cursed this world, but God has not finished. Resting does not mean God is finished. But rather God is still on the move. And he’s passionately pursuing people in this world. And the way that he wants his glory to be made known is by working through his people that know him and desire to reflect that in the life around us.
We think about it in a theological framework. I love the way Colossians puts it. Colossians 1:27, it says this, “To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” So it’s recognizing for us in times past, you couldn’t see completely how God was going to work this out. We knew that he was promising a Messiah and what all that would entail. But prophetically it tells us, Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 31:31, that what God would do is he would take this heart of stone and his Spirit would come and we make that heart new for him and he would dwell within us. And so that’s the mystery that’s been shaped out. It’s no longer a mystery anymore. That Jesus would come in the flesh, he would die for us, he would then indwell us and he would work through us to proclaim his glory in this world. Christ in you, the hope of glory.
It says in verse 28, “We proclaim him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom. So that we may present every man complete in Christ.” That’s discipleship. Reflecting Jesus. For this purpose. Paul says, I labor, striving according to his power, which mightily works within me. So he’s recognizing anything that we do in this world, it’s never been by our power, but his sustaining power that has been reigning on the throne since the beginning of creation. And the laying down of myself that God could work through me. I’m controlling my gate.
And so then he kind of gives this concluding thought in Colossians 2. He says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” This idea of walking again carries the thought of discipleship. It’s saying to us, there’s a rhythm to the way God desires to move in this world. And you being a disciple, desire to look at Christ and begin to mimic the rhythm in which God wants to move in the world around you. And so you’re surrendered to him and in surrendering to him you walk in him. “Having Been firmly rooted and now being built up in him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
And he says, why? Why do you want to live this way? “For In him, all the fullness of deity or God had dwells bodily in Jesus in this form. And in him you have been made complete. And he is the head over all rule and authority. So why do you live this way? Because Jesus is God and Jesus is ruling. And he warns us in the context of this section, I love it, it’s is a concluding thought.
By the way, I encourage you this week if you want to read theologically how the authority and deity of Jesus impacts life. Colossians 1 and 2, that’s what Paul unpacks there. Jesus created all things for his glory and purpose. He upholds all things Colossians 1:15-16, and he builds from there how it relates to us.
But he says something very important, starting in verse 7, 8, he starts talking about our default as individuals. We tend to make our lives about religion rather than relationship. We tend to make our lives about, “God, I’m showing up on Sunday to perform this thing so that I obligate you and that you might have to be forced to love me.” And so Jesus is going to love you any more than he already loves you right now. And the way that it loves right now is by coming and giving his life for you. There is no further extent in which someone could go to ever demonstrate their love. So it doesn’t matter what you do and try to make God love you more. There is no possible way that he could already love you more than he loves you.
And he loves you so much that he loves you and doesn’t want to leave you that way. God wants to shape something in you that matters bigger than yourself. And what are you saying? Colossians is this idea for his glory and our benefit, which is far better than anything that we can fabricate in our own lives because it’s Jesus who designed us for his purpose. Our default is religion. And he talks about this more in Colossians, you can look at it in chapter two, he talks about how we might emphasize a day or a religious practice or something that we blow out of proportion and he says the significance of all of it is it’s Jesus. It’s not religion, it’s relationship. It’s Jesus. That Prince of Peace has come for you.
And we look at this theologically, right? Colossians laid it out. Genesis lays it out. What does it look like practically? If you call yourself a disciple, what does that look like for me to live that out in my life? To worship and disciple. When it comes to life, I find there’s a lot of ways we declare words with little demonstration. That doesn’t carry much weight.
And James even said that in the book of James 2, right? You show me your faith without your works, not showing you my faith by my works. It’s like the reality of who I am, if I’m saying one thing and not living it out, that’s not really who I am. I can call myself a Christian all day long, which by the way, the Bible only uses the word Christian like three times. It uses the word “disciple” or “follower of the way” more than it uses the word Christian. That for some reason that became the popular choice of words for us. Just saying that, what does it look like? Are they empty words or are you a genuine followers of Jesus?
What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? We turn to Acts 2, I think you see that unfold in a practical way. Acts 2 is the place where the Spirit of God comes and empowers the people of God to accomplish the will of God in this world. And it’s the first place, Acts 2, is the first place where, when the Spirit of God comes, Peter gives a sermon and then the church starts to live its life out. And I want you to know, before I start to read this, that this section of scripture is not necessarily prescriptive. What I’m saying is, we’re going to read this story and I’m not telling you to do everything they’re doing the way that they’re doing it. It’s not prescriptive, it’s descriptive. And so what I mean is ,what’s happening in Acts is Luke is just recording for us. He’s saying, when the people of God came to know the Lord and gave their lives to him, this is what it looked like in the first century.
And then he starts to share with us starting in verse 42 what they did. Now, I’m going to tell you, because I just warn you that our default is just to think religiously apart from relationally. I want to warn you before I read this passage, because you’re going to read things and I want to tell you to do them. You’re going to read within the context that they got into God’s word. And they prayed, and they fellowship, and they shared, and they gave, and they broke bread. And I’m going to say all those things are good and you should consider them and how they fit in your life, and in the way you live for God’s glory.
But here comes the danger. Is that we can treat those things as an end to themselves. Or we can treat those things as if they obligate God in our lives. But I want to tell you that when the early church did this, the thing that drove them to do this was one singular passion. They had a hunger for God. They wanted to know God. And in wanting to know God, they sought the things that helped them better know God in their lives. And so in that they became hungry for the word of God and prayer and seeking God. And so when I read this list, I’m not trying to put a burden on you to obligate you. What I’m saying is when you have a passionate hunger for the Lord in his life, making him known as a disciple, these things will become a natural outflow of your life. And it’s not something that you fabricate. It’s not something that weighs you down as a burden. It’s something you live out in your life.
We as people recognize in the worship war that we live out, our heart needs revived daily. In fact, we even talk about revivals. It would be awesome to see a revival happen in Utah. It would be awesome. You read Acts 2, when we read this context in a moment, I mean this is a revival. Thousands of people coming to know Christ. Awesome. When you study American church history, there were some big revivals that happened in America starting in the 1700’s into the 1800’s. The Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening. There was a prayer revival. And sometimes when people look at that, they want it so bad. They start saying things like, “Let’s just do what they did.” And they studied the early revivals and they start telling us,”These people really prayed. And if we start praying, it’s going to mean that we get a revival.”
Now prayer is good, but I’m going to tell you, it doesn’t necessitate that there’s going to be a revival. Prayer is not like this magic wand where you’re like, if we just all did it, then there’s going to be a revival. And the reason there’s not a revival is because we’re not all doing it. I don’t think prayers what created revivals in America. I think prayer was a natural outflowing of what created revival. What created revival was that the people had a hunger for God. And in their hunger for God, God revived the land in him, as people trust and pursued him. The prayer just became a natural outflowing of that. And so when we look at the story that’s unfolding, Acts 2, we see people come to know Jesus, disciples of him. Then we asked the question practically, what does it look like?
Not as an end in itself. Because it’s a natural outflowing of a hunger for God. I don’t want you to shame me. God, I want you to be in control of my life. Rather than it be about me, I want it to be about you. God, make me hungry. And the word of God in that context becomes sustenance. It becomes food for your soul. So this is what it says. This is what Luke records, early church, they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship and the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common, that beautiful unity. And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all as anyone might have need.
And look at verse 47 I skipped ahead, but it says, “in praising God and having favor with all people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day, those who were being saved.” I’m going to say this about verse 47 I’m going to tell you we’re going to talk more about verse 47 next week. But in the beauty of the fellowship of God’s people, what it says as that community, as they had their tribe together, people around saw how beautiful that was, how powerful it was and how attractive it became and God kept adding to their numbers. People were seeing that and they just wanted it.
For me, I love this verse for Utah. And the reason I love this verses is .because I’ve lived here for well over a decade now and I can tell you one of the number one things that this area struggles with, probably far above anything else. It’s loneliness. For whatever reason, I’ve lived in a few different places in America, but one of the struggles that we have in this area that I think is a little more powerful than other areas is loneliness. And I just want to point that out to you. We’ll talk a little bit more about next week, but I just want to point that out to you this week just to say this to you as a church family, I want us to realize how powerful our fellowship is as a community.
Because what it’s here in this fellowship is if your area struggles with loneliness, then what God’s family can have together, created and committed to each other is such a beautiful thing that it draws other people in. I, I think this becomes a tool to reach the world around us. Now, I want to tell you, I don’t want you to feel the pressure of that and say, okay, I need to know everybody in the church. Because our church, we have two services. We’re too big. You can’t know everybody. You can’t know everybody. But I do want you to know everyone deserves to be known. Now, everyone is made special and important in God’s eyes. And so everyone deserves to be made known. And that makes it important for you to find a tribe within our bigger tribe to encourage and fellowship. We all carry this responsibility. And when we live it out, how beautiful that becomes in Christ, like how important it is for you to participate in community life, to encourage each other. To make a family, and to make God’s family become a priority in our lives. That we can see the beauty of Christ reflected in our world and it becomes attractive to the outside world.
But he also says this, I’m going to get off that, I’m going to let you see in verse 42 what he says, and some specific things the church does. In the apostles teaching, which the apostles wrote the New Testament, and we talked about this before, the string of pearls, how they took the New Testament and tied it to the Old Testament. So they’re listening to God’s word, the apostles teaching and to fellowship. So let me, let me just say this.
At some point in our framework of thinking somehow the church has gotten a little off skew and, and tends to think at different times that information, your knowledge means spirituality. Like the more you know, the more spiritual you. And truth is that’s garbage. The more you know, doesn’t make you more spiritual. It just means that you know. And the Bible tells us actually knowledge puffs up. So you might actually have an issue with pride.
When it comes to the idea of truth. Notice that he says in this verse that they’re devoted the apostles teaching and to fellowship. And what he’s saying for us as a people is that if your understanding of God doesn’t impact your relationship with others, you need to change your theology. Because the truth of God as it’s being made in our lives, isn’t just about information. That you spiritually should find yourself interacting holistically. That as you come to know God’s truth, it should impact the way that you live your life. Now let me just say, I don’t want to downplay truth. I want to elevate fellowship and elevate truth. And in recognizing the significance of truth, let me just say this, truth becomes the catalyst for change.
The reason they were drawn to God’s word is because they identify it as the truth of who God is, that they can know him more intimately and be a disciple or reflect the beauty of God in this world. You don’t just get the make up who God is. God has revealed himself. That you can know him personally and intimately. And so truth becomes the catalyst for life change. And that makes truth important.
But if I’m just embracing the truth to puff up my mind and calling that spirituality, that’s false perception. Because the truth of who God is is intended to impact the lives of individuals around me and how I live that out, the love of the Lord in my life. And so he goes a little bit further than he talks about the breaking of bread and of prayer. When we talk about the breaking of bread, we often think about communion, which we do as a church. But their picture of breaking of bread was far bigger than that.
They were referred to their gatherings as love feasts. They’d often meet in homes or a common area, didn’t have church buildings, and when they would gather together, they would have an entire feast. And a part of that involved communion. So they were enjoying life together in one another’s home. Having fellowship with one another, talking about the truth of God’s word. By the way, I would say that’s our connection groups. If you want to know what I think is a broader picture of the church is what we do in our family groups or connection groups throughout the week. So it’s the fellowship together that’s important and people are lonely. You’ve got to have that stuff. It’s an encouragement. It’s a rallying point for us and our identity in Jesus to encourage one another along and to share this teaching and to the breaking of bread and prayer.
Now, we talk about all of these things. I think it’s important to just continue to remind ourselves. This is not a legalistic checklist. That these things don’t exist like God is up there in heaven begging you to use them. I think God wants you to use them, but prayer doesn’t exist for God. God’s not in heaven like, “Man, I hope they pray to me, I really need to hear today.” Prayer exists for you. God created that so that you can connect to him. God said, “You carry burdens in this world. You have direct access to me. Talk to me. Utilize this. I’ve given you this opportunity to draw near to me.” Prayer is for you.
Fellowship isn’t for God. Fellowship is for you. God’s Word isn’t for him. He already knows it, He wrote the book. It’s for you. It’s for us. They call ourselves Christians or disciples, I think is another way of saying what I think “Christian” should mean. And so these things exist for us because we are under our King desiring to align our hearts as he controls our gates to reflect him in this world.
So these things become important. Why? Hunger for God, hunger for God. So I think in our groups as we meet, as you have your little tribes. By the way, I am getting into next week’s message but let me say, people are weird, right? We’re okay with that. No one who wants to be your descriptive word. If I had to describe you to people, “You’re normal.” That’s boring, right? It’s cool to be weird right? Everyone’s got their own eccentric personalities and stuff. And when you get together with different groups in our church, different connection groups, you try those out. You’re not always going to match with one. That’s okay. Just be like they’re just a different weird than me. So I’ll try a another group or some. That’s important.
But when you talk about our groups, or meeting as a group and the importance of fellowship, it’s good. But that doesn’t end there either. If you have a family or whatever you are, whether one person or you represent a family core to some degree. I’m just going let you know my home, what we do: hunger for God. And in the back there are these Bibles. If you have been looking for a Bible for your kids, this Bible is more designed between the ages of four to eight. We have him on the back for $5.
Usually about four or five days a week, just being honest, not every day. I’ll get with my kids, I’ll sit up in their room, they share the same room together. We like them to have that as brothers sharing a room. And I’ll sit on their bed and we’ll read a story. And the reason I liked this Bible is because it takes a story and doesn’t just leave it as the end of the story. It ties it into God’s greater theme of his plan of redemption for all of creation. So it ties everything back to Jesus, each Bible story. And I’ll read them a story. And usually before I read the story, I’ll tell them, knowing what the story is, I’ll tell them why I like this story. What it means to me. And then I’ll read it or I’ll get to the end of the story and I’ll tell them how that story impacts me. I’m trying to make it personal with them. It’s not real long, but God uses that to shape us. And as a dad, I understand what God wants to do in my son’s, he wants to mature them.
One of things I love to do is I don’t want to follow after my kids all day long and barking every time they’re wrong. That’s a horrible representation of Jesus. Every time you think about your dad and you think about the pastor that tells you all the wrong things you’re doing, and then you end up hating Jesus because of it, that’s horrible. Rather what I tried to do with my kids, I correct them when there’s things that they shouldn’t be doing. Which is daily. But more than that, I encourage them when I see them doing things that reflect what I think the nature of God is. And I celebrate that. I tell them, “You guys are young men. I’m so proud of the way that you just took time to care for your mom like that, reflecting a characteristic that’s godly.” I’ll just point out whatever that characteristic is. And that’s it. I just want my children to be shaped. It’s not, it’s not all day long walking behind them and be like, looks like Jesus looked like Jesus. You know, just, just being proactive and spending time.
So if you want to get a Bible five bucks in the back, you can grab one. But all of these things become central for us as a church family. What it means to be a disciple and follow after Christ. And one of the things that I think this passage does to encourage us, I love how it starts. If you just look at verse 41, this section describes their action. But just before that it talks about their conversion, their salvation. Their point in life where they realize, “I was in control of my gate. Jesus paid for that. I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to pretend. He loves me that much.”
Peter preached that message. He preached the sermon in Acts 2. And then they surrender themselves. “Jesus save me. Jesus be the Lord of my life. I don’t want to be Lord.”
And it says, after Peter preached that sermon in Acts 2, “So then those who had received his word were baptized. And that day there were added about 3,000 souls.” Now this is the day of Pentecost. And this would be cool, when we talk about revival. This would be cool, 3,000 people come to know Jesus. I would like that. Let’s do that. Let’s live this verse.
But the point of this verse actually isn’t the number. Now the number does wow you, but the point of this verse isn’t the number. The number is specific, I think it’s a real number. It was 3,000. But this number is symbolic and that carries far more weight. And the symbolism of this is what’s intended to encourage you as God’s people. Because when Peter preaches this message and these people come to Christ, this happens 50 days after Passover. On the day of Pentecost. And Israel has been celebrating Pentecost since the Passover. You remember the Passover? Moses was in Egypt with the slaves who were Israel. God uses the Passover to set them free and they celebrate the Passover for almost a few thousand years before Christ comes in the sacrifice of the lamb.
And then after they leave Egypt, they get to this place called Mount Sinai. And while they’re traveling, God gives them the law. Moses goes up on the mountain and he gets the law. In happens in Exodus 32. When he comes down with the law, what he finds out are the people of Israel, Moses receives this law on the day of Pentecost, he comes down and he sees the people of Israel worshiping a false god. And because of the judgment that takes place for them, leaving the Lord and worshiping a false god, it tells us 3,000 souls die that day. And the point of the illustration with the law is that law, religious living, does not save you.
In fact, if you think that, I would say, please read Galatians 3. Religious law will not save you. It will never save you. The only thing it will ever do is condemn you. And you think in practical terms of our law today, no police officer ever pulls you over and says, “Good job in obeying the law.” The only thing that they use the law for is to tell you when you break it. And we love police officers, but that’s their job.
Same thing with the Old Testament law. It’s to show you your need to be rescued. It doesn’t free you, it condemns you. And so when Israel would think about the Pentecost, the day of Pentecost, they would think about the day 3,000 people were killed. And now all of a sudden in Acts 2, after Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection, when God says to them that 3,000 souls are saved that day, it’s as if to stop them in the tracks. It’s to awaken them to something new that’s happening in the new covenant here. What God is doing through Christ and now working through his people to proclaim this glory. That God’s power is still on mission and it’s coming into this world to save us and to rescue us from the curse of sin of which law and religion can never free us from.
It identifies that. How important God’s community becomes in declaring his purpose. Could you imagine you hear the story? The people hear what Peter’s preaching and they’re rescued by Christ and they see that the saving God has taken this law that has oppressed and demonstrated their need for a Messiah. And that same law that took 3,000 lives in the Old Testament now brings 3,000 new lives into His kingdom. And their response is, I’m hungry for this God. How can I know him? How can I live in that Prince of Peace? And as they live it out in their lives, they’re not just disciples by word, but they’re disciples by living. “The Lord continues to add to their numbers day by day.”
That makes your walk with Jesus important. Not just in your relationship, in growing in God, but how God then uses that to impact lives around you. The seriousness of this story says to us as people, don’t take advantage of the opportunity God has given you to know him and to live for the purpose for which he has created you in this world.
We’re going to talk about in the next two weeks how that practically breaks itself out, but I’m going to leave you with just this quote. Out of all the things you can live for in your life. Of the things that can control your gate, living for Christ becomes the most paramount and beautiful thing for which you could live because God created you for that, from the very beginning. Intentionally, intimately breathing you, forming you, and the breath of life that you can know and enjoy him for all of eternity in demonstrate that glory in this world.
William Carey was a missionary in the 1700 to recognize this. And he lived at a time when Christians did not care about demonstrating their faith in that way. They didn’t go to the ends of the word earth to make disciples of all nations. And William Carey kept reading through God’s word and saw himself trapped between Genesis 2 and Revelation 21 to live for his glory. And he continued to compel and preach the need to go to the point that he ends up going into the foreign mission field and living his life for God. And this is what he said that impacted him. He said this, “I’m not afraid of failure. I’m just afraid of succeeding at the things that don’t matter.”
This story is the theme of our existence and our hunger for this determines the power through which we live.