WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND WHY - Why do we do what we do?
I hear a fair amount of talk in regards to churches. Some meet in large very ornate buildings, some are smaller (country) churches, some meet in storefronts, or even houses, some meet outside. Some churches sing traditional hymns and are very formal and some have guitars and drums. We will get to worship at the Brooklyn Tabernacle next month that has a choir of probably 2-300 and a full orchestra. Some Christians this morning are meeting in secret and others are meeting in the most public of places. Some are hung up on certain doctrines and theologies and some simply are not. Some are "elder" led churches and others have deacons that serve. Oddly as we talk about "church" these are the types of things that are many times discussed. This morning I want us to know the basics for why we get together like this, what is truly important in that, and what the result of that should be.
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper ), and to prayer.They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts of the Apostles 2:42, 46-47 NLT
The heading in my Bible in regard to these verses is "THE BELIEVERS FORM A COMMUNITY". So what did they do to form a community?
1. LEARNING CHURCH - They devoted themselves to learn from the apostles teaching and apply what they learned. Actually it really doesn't say they applied it but the results of what was going on proved that they did. I mean lets think about it from a school perspective. If you go to class and learn that 2+2=4 and we know that is the truth but when you have to apply that on a test or even in some other facet of life and you choose to refuse what you've learned and say not today I want that to = 5. Does that make it correct. NO. We must be devoted to learning what the Bible says and when we learn it then apply it. In that day they were devoted to their teaching and we should be now but we also have a wealth of resources to be a "learning church" and I hope you take full advantage of the fact that we have the full revelation of God's Word, the tools we have with the internet where you can hear and read others teaching. But here is where the rubber meets the road:
A). Do you come here today for the purpose of learning?
B). If you did do you intend to apply that learning in your life
--if not why are we here today - coming together as the church is not the end all be all. Again and again I will tell you it is the huddle, the timeout on the sideline, its a time where we come to give praise to the ultimate coach and get our direction from him. If the coach called a timeout to get his players over to draw up a play - if he knew that there only intention was to come and hear and understand the play but then to not go and execute the play on the field then what would be the point. So remember as you share with others about the church wouldn't it be great to say the Lord taught me this through the ministry of the church and this is how it is changing my life.
2. FELLOWSHIPPING CHURCH - I gotta say we are good at this. One of the things I am extremely thankful for is the fact that we fellowship. It is cool that when we say amen that there are people who hang around and talk with each other. It is encouraging. If you've never hung out after a service then stick around today. Go find a group of people and join in on the conversation. We certainly know how to eat together. Think about it....how many of you have made a good friend around those tables in the fellowship hall. God did not design us to go at this thing alone. I don't care if you took the best football player of all time and put him up against one of our local high school teams there is no way that he could win that game alone. We have to have each other. He wants us to encourage one another, He wants us to enjoy each other's company, He wants us to hold each other accountable. We had breakfast this morning and we will enjoy a time of fellowship and Bible study tonight. These times are important in your life. You see when you find fellowship with God's people you will start to know that you are needed, you are missed when you are not here....simply you will be held accountable. One of the first things that happens when we begin to drift away from God is that we tend to start to drift away from His people. Come and fellowship it is a vital part of the faith.
3. WORSHIPPING CHURCH - does this point to style of worship....no. Worship and focusing our thoughts on God and His Son Jesus Christ reminds us on a regular basis why we are here. On Sunday mornings we experience I guess 2 expressions of worship. We worship in song and we worship in the word. Both of these expressions of worship should only be for the purpose of directing people to JESUS the only one worthy of our worship. Can you and should you worship in private - yes. Can you and should you gather together corporately in church to worship - yes. What is your purpose in worship this morning? Do you have one or are you just here? Does your worship honor God - do you think that how you worship here is a good warm up for what will happen in heaven. Do you come prepared to worship and with a desire to honor God in how we do. I'm not at all saying you have to jump up on a pew, or wave your hands but as you sing is your object of worship Jesus. Do you spend time remembering all He has done for you. “Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal.” Joshua 8:30 NLT. The Israelites had just defeated Ai, he understood who had actually won that victory in his life, and he went to a lot of work to return his praise and worship to God (he would probably be a little jealous of the fact that we have a place that we don't have to build each week that we get to come and worship and return our praise to God in a place like this).
What has God done in your life this week - I know by Jesus He has offered a way to conquer your worst enemy that is sin and death in your life and you have the promise of heaven and simply put that is enough. That is plenty reason to worship Him. I wonder as the angels look down on us today at our response to GOD as we sing and as we hear these words from God. Sometimes we stand here like a knot on a log, sometimes we sleep, sometimes we are distracted and have no problem with distracting others. When we do that do we really find that WORSHIP is important. We choose a style of worship here that is more contemporary than others but that style is of no importance if the object of our worship is not THE LORD JESUS. You may or may not like my "style" of preaching.....frankly I don't know what my "style" is. My kids remind me regularly that I don't have style at all. I have a huge responsibility to make sure that what I say points you to Jesus and not me and you play a huge role in the worship of God by the preaching of His Word by the way you come prepared to receive it. “But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.
David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord.”
2 Samuel 6:16, 21 NLT
Are you more like David or are you more like Michal (daughter of Saul). When David brought the area into the city he was so joyful that he shed his kingly robes and danced all the way down Main Street. Sauls daughter mocked him for his show of emotion. David's explanation - he had to humble himself and worship God. He knew he was king only because God had made him king (by the way you are only saved because God made a way for you to be saved). David loved God so much that he was simply toying to express his love for Him. Do you find it embarrassing to worship God? When your worship is sincere and you express that others around you will be uncomfortable because they are not experiencing that personally? When you try to fake it - knowing it is not a genuine worship - it is an attempt to cover what is really in there then it is embarrassing. When, by Jesus, we are made whole, cleansed by His blood (not just because He can do that but because He has done that for you personally) and we return our thanks to Him out of great love and appreciation to Him then who cares what others think about you - Sing, praise, pray, be willing to share your testimony. Be openly thankful for Jesus.
4. PRAYING CHURCH - prayer is our power, prayer is our lifeline, if we begin to direct ourselves we will be in a lot of trouble. I fail to make this a constant reminder to the church but I will do better going forward. We need to be a people that pray and I ask you to daily offer up a prayer for the church, a prayer for your leaders, a prayer for wisdom, and a prayer for direction. You should be praying about things in your own life, for direction in your life and for your family and friends but please do not leave out your prayers for the church.
As you describe the church my hope is that you will describe us in this way. A church that learns and applies, a church that fellowships and the deep friendships you share here, a church that worships intentionally, and a church that lifts each other up in prayer on a daily basis. When the church does these things the avenues (styles) in which they are done become irrelevant. The kind of building, style of music, the makeup of the leadership group, wether it is done in a traditional manner or a contemporary manner really doesn't matter all that much. May we make sure this is what we do and there is a great purpose in all these basic things of the church and that is this we have a command - a commission - a story to tell.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20 NLT.
If we do all of these things and do them well and they are an end in themselves then we missed it. The result of genuine learning, fellowship, worship and prayer is that we reach people with the gospel. The early church did these things well and the result was they shared the gospel - and each day God added to their fellowship those that were being saved. Cymbala said we have a story to tell and it is this -
JESUS IS ALIVE, JESUS LOVES YOU, AND JESUS CAN TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE AS HE HAS MINE.
Then you can tell your story about what happens in you - the church - you are the church. I learned this from God's word and the preaching of that word. This is what I changed in my life and now this is what happened. I learned that having my family in church was important, I changed and started leading them there, and now Jesus is transforming my family - my relationship with my wife now looks like this, my relationship with my kids is now this. I love to fellowship with like minded people. They aren't perfect but they hold me accountable and I actually love being around them.
When I go to worship I go expecting to learn more, I want to return my praise to God for what He has done in my life this week and what He has in store for me today. I am not ashamed of Jesus and the people around me aren't either. I pray for us, I see God at work, we get to see people saved, baptized, we see chains broken, marriages healed, addictions are something of the past, I see people growing in Christ and experiencing this peace that is unexplainable. You have a witness and an obligation to go and tell. Let's make sure we keep our focus on the basics, do them right and from that we will have a Godly, Biblical testimony to share and I know that God will add to our fellowship those that are being saved. AMEN