Church isn’t a place we come to, it’s a mission we choose to be part of, a people committed to following Jesus together. So let’s stop “going” to church and start being the church!
Successful Christians, meaning those who are steadily becoming more like Jesus and joining him on mission, do consistently what other Christians do occasionally. This week, join us as we dig into what successful Christians do with regularity and intentionality.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to all of our locations. So glad you’re with us. Before we dive in today’s teaching, actually I wanna celebrate something that God’s done in somebody’s life, and they’ve responded to it in faith. Janice is part of our church. She’s been a part of our church for a long time, but she actually lives in Glenrock, Wyoming, and she joins us every weekend through our Online Campus. And recently, she reached out to us, and she said, “I really wanna be a mission in my community. Could it be okay if I like use the livestream of the weekend service to, like, invite people to come to my house, and we could like do church in Glenrock?” and we were like, “Yeah. Yeah, that’d be okay.” In fact, we put together a team that kind of tried to figure out how to support her in doing that. And so, this Wednesday, for the first time ever, we’re gonna be launching our first what we’re gonna call a microsite in Glenrock, Wyoming, so, Janice, we’re so proud of you to be on mission with Jesus all the way up there in the wilds of Wyoming.
And honestly, I don’t know that I could make up a better way to launch this little sort of ramp up to Easter. We’re doing a series called “Be the Church” or, “Don’t Come to Church, Be the Church,” and that’s kind of what we’re talking about. I don’t know about you, when I was a little kid, my mom taught me this little thing where she had me put my hands together like this, some of you are way ahead of me, and what we had to do we had to say, you know, “Here is the church, and here is the steeple, open the doors and you see all the people,” anybody else?
Craig: Yeah. That’s a terrible thing to teach a child. It really is because what that taught me from the very beginning was that church is a building. Hopefully, it’s a building that’s filled with people, but the church is really the building, and that’s just not true. Right? I mean, the Church isn’t a building, the Church is the people, it’s the people in the Church. That’s the Church. It’s the people of God on mission with Jesus. Church isn’t a building we come through. It’s a mission we choose to be part of as the people of God. That’s really what this series is all about. What does it look like to be the Church that God has called us to?
Why don’t you go and grab a Bible and start making your way to the Book of Acts 2? What we’re gonna be doing for the next couple weeks is looking at a very short passage in the Book of Acts that I would call a load-bearing passage in the sense that even though it’s pretty short it has a lot of truth, and there’s a lot riding on understanding what it says. And what we’re gonna see in here is a description of some things that were true in the life of the earliest followers of Jesus, the very first group of people who gathered together to become like Jesus and join him on a mission in the world. And we’re gonna see some things that they did and some things that God did kind of in response to that commitment on their parts to be the Church that God had called them to.
And here’s the way he begins the description, we’re in Chapter 2, Verse 42 of the Book of Acts, he says this, he says, “They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the Apostles. All the believers were together, and they had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
And I think we probably all agree this sounds like a church where there’s a lot going on, doesn’t it? It sounds like the kind of church we’d probably all like to be part of. Can I get an amen on that?
Craig: Yeah. I mean if you think about it, so, I mean, they’re seeing miracles, how many of us would like to see miracles? Yeah, that’d be pretty cool. They had radical generosity, they were selling stuff so they could practice radical, not just generosity, but radical community, they’re taking care of each other. So those things are going on. They had a great reputation with the whole community, which I think is awesome because in that time the community really didn’t know what they thought about Jesus, but it says they had a great reputation. It means they didn’t know what they thought about Jesus, but everybody liked his people. Like, that’s kind of the opposite of the way it is today. I mean you get a lot people today like, “I like Jesus. I just don’t like his friends,” or I don’t like Christians.
They had the other way around. They didn’t know what they thought about Jesus, but they had a great reputation. The people of Jesus had a great reputation with those in the community. That’s pretty cool. And he says they were growing. They were having numbers added daily, not because people were transferring from other churches because they weren’t in here other churches, but they were giving their lives to Jesus and their creatures growing because of that. That sounds like some pretty amazing stuff. Now, the question then really becomes, “Was the church doing anything that sort of set the stage for that?” Because everything that’s being described there as the work of God, do you understand that? Everything that’s being described that was happening, that’s something that only God can do. You can’t make that happen. There’s no technique or strategy that can make God move in those ways, but what we see in Verse 42 is there were some things they were doing that kind of set the stage and invited God to walk out on that stage and then to do what only God could do. And in Verse 42, we actually see four things that they were doing to kind of set the stage for God to do what only he could do.
Verse 42 says this again, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer,” four things they were devoted to. Now, if you’ve got a Bible that you can kind of make a note in, I’d love for you to circle that word “devoted” and maybe even make a sideline note because that word, devoted, in English kind of sounds like it was something they did. It was a past tense thing, and it was, but in the Greek there’s a particular kind of verb that says, “This didn’t just happen once, it actually happened constantly.” It was consistent and moved on, and on, and on, and there’s no real way to do that in English other than to add some words. And so in English what we’d have to say to kind of capture the thought is that they were consistently devoting themselves.
That’s what Luke says here, Luke, when he wrote this, and he says, “They were consistently devoting themselves to these four things.” Why is that important? Because consistency is key. Do you understand that? Because this is key in so many areas, one of my favorite leadership coaches, he’s also a pastor in Oklahoma, but he teaches a lot in leadership, and he says something that I think is so true and so powerful. He says, “Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.” Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally. We have a tendency to look at successful people and go, you know, “”They know something we don’t know.” Right? They have some secret sauce, some behind-the-scenes piece of knowledge, or some practice that they’re doing what we’re not doing. And the reality is if you look at successful people in almost any area of life, it’s not that they know something different than anybody else, they’re just doing consistently what the rest of us are doing occasionally.
I mean, think about athletes. Successful athletes don’t train occasionally. They train what? Consistently, all the time. Successful students don’t study every now and then, they study consistently. Successful parents don’t discipline their children occasionally, they discipline them consistently. Consistency is the key. And so what we could say for Christians, we could say successful Christians do consistently what others do occasionally. Successful Christians do consistently what others do occasionally. In other words, people who are consistently becoming like Jesus, steadily growing in their faith, becoming religious, and joining him on mission, they’re doing consistently what a lot of other people just do every now and then.
You know, we probably all have somebody in our lives that we tend to look at and go, “Man, they’re just killing it,” when it comes to following Jesus. Right? I mean they just always seem to becoming more spiritually mature and just growing in their sensitivity to the Spirit and all those things. They’re just killing it, and God seems to be using them. They’re just constantly taking steps of faith, and God’s working through them, and things are happening, like, “What is that they know?” like, “Is there a part of the Bible that they’ve read that I’ve never come across?” or, “You know, I bought my Bible at a discount book distributor,” like, “do they have a book that’s not in mine? What do they know that I don’t know? What’s their secret sauce?” And the answer honestly isn’t that they know something that we don’t know, or that they’re doing something we’re not doing. What’s typically the case is that successful Christians are doing consistently what others are only doing occasionally, which means, and this is an important key to a healthy church, it means that healthy churches prioritize developing consistent Christians. That’s really the key to a healthy church. We prioritize developing consistent Christians.
So the question then is, “So what are the things that consistent Christians do?” Well, Luke gives us four things here. First thing is this, he says this, he says, “Healthy Christians consistently learn from gifted teachers.” Healthy Christians consistently learn from gifted teachers. What he says is that they were devoting themselves, consistently devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching. Now, the apostles were the 12 guys who followed Jesus day in and day out. After Jesus’ resurrection, they became the leaders of the early church, and the Holy Spirit gifted them to teach people. Now, there was some information involved in that. The apostles were able to give them some information. They were able to say, “Yeah, here’s what Jesus said. Here’s what Jesus did.” That’s information.
But I want to push in for just a quick moment here because sometimes we have a feeling that, I think especially in the modern world, that, you know, the essence of teaching is dispensing information. and it’s really not. Good teaching isn’t about giving information, it’s about creating transformation. Gifted teachers empowered by the Holy Spirit, they do more than just tell us facts, they push into that and they help us to understand what does that mean, and what does that look like for our lives, and that’s what the apostles were gifted by the Holy Spirit to do. They could say, “Well, Jesus did this, he said this, and here’s what this means. Here’s the significance of it, and this is what this looks like in our lives,” and so they were pushing transformation of character.
And I mentioned that because sometimes I think, especially in the modern world, we have a feeling like, “Well, you know, if I can just get information, then that’s enough,” in which case we don’t really need teachers because we live in an era where you can get all the information, can’t you? Right? I mean how many of you own a Bible? How many of you own more than one? I’m not gonna ask how many of you’re reading it, we’ll meddle with that later. But do you understand that if you own a Bible, you are an incredibly rare minority? In the course of the last 2,000 years, only a small sliver of Christians had access to God’s Word on a daily basis, they had access to a whole Bible. That’s a fairly new phenomenon. And even today there are Christians all over the world that don’t have access to that.
So, you have information in God’s Word. Information is not the same thing as transformation, and you got Google. Even if you don’t own a physical Bible, you can get all the Bibles online. And you can’t just get the Bibles, you can get commentaries on the Bibles. You can get scholars for the last 2,000 years, that stuff has been digitized. You can find out what great thinkers and leaders of the churches have spoken about what the Scripture means. You can actually find Greek and Hebrew texts where you just point at the words and a little pop-up window will tell you exactly what that word is in English, give you multiple translations and tell you other places that word occurs. I mean that’s all information, and that’s powerful, and it’s an important part of teaching. But gifted teachers are enabled by the Holy Spirit to move beyond giving information, to leading to transformation.
And in fact, here’s a reality that I’ve come to understand, sometimes the more content we consume, the less character we actually cultivate. Do you hear me? Sometimes more content we consume, the less character we cultivate because we’re just gorging on information, and gifted teachers go beyond that.
This has really brought home to me, not too long ago. I’ve sort of been struggling through what exactly God was calling me to do and how to describe what I think God was stirring up in my soul about what it meant to be gifted by the Spirit to teach, and I had a mentor who said something about his own teaching that I really paid attention to, partly because he and I teach very similarly. We teach what we call expository teaching. We walk through passages of the Scripture verse by verse and unpack it. He does exactly the same thing. So, it really caught my attention when he said, “Yeah, my job’s not to teach the Bible.” I was like, “What do you mean? I’ve never heard you do anything other than teach the Bible.” He said, “Yeah, my job is not to teach the Bible, my job is to help people follow Jesus using the Bible as my only authority.”
Craig: And I thought, “That’s what God’s been stirring up in me.” It’s not about information, it’s about transformation, it’s about pushing into developing character, that’s what gifted teachers do. And the Bible, as our authority, it’s the Word of God, is the only place that we get the information we need, but gifted teachers, it’s more than just dispensing information, it’s about developing character. And so, here’s what I wanna tell you about healthy Christians that are consistently learning from gifted teachers, you need to take an action related to that. Here’s the action point I’m gonna give to you, cultivate your character through gifted teaching weekly. Healthy Christians need to be cultivating their character through gifted teaching weekly.
Now, you might say, “Well, why wait? Why weekly? I mean I can listen to podcasts, I’ve got access to internet, I can listen to gifted teachers every hour.” Remember what I said? Sometimes the more content we consume, the less character we actually cultivate. I had a woman tell me what was… .I know it was intended to be a compliment, she said, she told me that God was using me in her life, and I’m grateful for that, but she said she’s kind of new to Mission Hills, and she said, “So I caught up on your teaching last week,” I said, “What do you mean?” she said, “I binge listened to every sermon you’ve taught.” Like in a week? And it’s flattering, and I’m glad God’s using it, but I question how much real character got cultivated in that experience. Because it was a consumption of content to the point that there wasn’t really the opportunity to just settle in and let the Holy Spirit like push things in and wrestle with what does this look like in our lives. And so, yeah, I know that we can listen to gifted teachers. I listen to gifted teachers more than one a week, and God uses them in my life. But I think sometimes we actually need to actually kind of narrow it down a little bit so that what God’s doing through those teachers has the chance to take root in us.
And some of you may be going, “You’re talking about listening to a gifted teacher, well what about like reading God’s Word for yourself? I mean if we have access to it, shouldn’t we be reading it?” Absolutely, we should. You should be engaging God’s Word daily, strongly, strongly encourage that. The reason I’m not really like pushing into that is because in this passage God’s talking about the role that gifted teachers, that anointed teachers have in your life for your benefit. We need to be engaging that on a weekly basis. Why? Because healthy Christians consistently learn from gifted teachers. It’s one of the things they do.
Second one is that healthy Christians consistently connect with other Christians. What Luke says here is that they were devoting themselves to fellowship. Now, let’s just acknowledge fellowship is a word that we don’t use much in English language anymore. In fact, as near as I can tell, the only places you’re gonna hear the word fellowship these days, three places, the church, academic circles, and people who like to talk about hobbits. I’m just saying. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should talk to somebody who’s laughing after the service.
That’s the only place we hear the word fellowship, but fellowship really just boils down to, it means connecting with people. And when I say connecting, I don’t mean like saying hi as you pass by them. That’s not a connection, that’s a verbal high-five. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s the difference between, you know, Doritos and a healthy meal. There’s nothing wrong with Doritos, and don’t send me e-mail saying otherwise, there is nothing wrong with Doritos, but there’s no substituting Doritos for a healthy meal. And when we’re talking about fellowship, we’re talking about connecting with other Christians, we’re talking about getting to know people and having a context in which we go beyond the surface, go deeper into each other’s lives, and so we know each other, we’re known by each other, and when we move past the surface level stuff, that’s when the real heart stuff begins to happen. That’s when we begin to really love each other and support each other.
You know, we saw last week that Jesus is our certainty, but it’s people who are our security, and it’s in those connections with others we really begin to experience that. Being connected to other Christians is really important. You know why that is? It’s because whether we like it or not you and I are herd animals. You understand that? Like nobody ever picks herd animals. If somebody says to you, “Hey, you know, what animal would you like to be?” we always pick things like, “I’d like to be a panther, that’d be super sweet. I’d like to be a wolf, an eagle.” Nobody ever says cow. It just never happens. But, honestly, we’re a lot more like cows than we’re like wolves.
And even wolves, you know, when we’re talking about wolves we have this phrase like “lone wolf,” and we always say it with a little bit of admiration. We even use it for people who seem to be independent, self-sufficient, self-made, but, you know what, there’s no such thing as a lone wolf. And, in fact, people who study wolves will tell you, “You know what a lone wolf is? It’s a wolf in search of a new pack.” It’s a wolf that’s lost its pack for whatever reason and is looking for another one, and while they’re in between packs they’re not healthy. Their diet is worse, their health is worse, and apparently, they show significant signs of depression. Wolves get depressed when they’re alone. And that’s wolves, how much more are herd animals?
And we’re definitely herd animals because the beginning of Scripture, first page, Genesis, it goes through a list of things that He makes and at the end of each thing, He says, “It’s good. It’s good. It’s good. It’s good.” And then, in Chapter 2, we kind of sort of zoom in on the creation of human being and he talks about the fact that he made Adam first, he made the man first, and God looked at the man and said, “It’s not good,” Not the man, he finished and said, “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” We’re made to be in connection with other people. It’s necessary. So, what do we do? What’s the action point? Join a group, join a group. If you’re not part of a group, you need to join a group. We’re passionate about groups in Mission Hills because we believe that life is better together. We believe that development as Christians happens in the context of those groups. That’s where so much of it really begins to take place. As a staff here, we have a value that we often talk about, what we call the Value Tribe, and what we say is that we do together what’s far too big for us to ever accomplish alone.
And that’s true in the world, but it’s also true in our own lives, the transformation that God wants to make happen in our character, to make us more like Jesus, helping join him on mission, that happens in these groups, that happens and we do life together. And so, join a group if you’re not a part of one. We have all kinds of groups here. We have men only groups, and women only groups, and we have things we call Hope Groups that are built around things that people are struggling through. We have Life Groups, we have Sunday School Groups, we have groups for the sole purpose of putting people in a place where they can develop this community where three things happen.
Number one, they love each other, number two, they challenge each other and help each other become like Jesus, and number three, help each other join Jesus on mission, and we think all that happens in groups. So, if you’re not part of a group, find a group to be part of. You can go to the Mission Hills app, you can download that from wherever you get the apps on your smartphone, or you can go to missionhills.org/groups, and you can find a group that’s convenient for you. But I’m gonna strongly encourage you to do that because this is one of the main things that healthy Christians do. Healthy Christians consistently connect with other Christians. The third thing that Luke tells us is that healthy Christians consistently reflects on what God has done for them, consistently reflect on what God has done for them. What he says is that they were devoted to or consistently devoted to breaking bread, and breaking bread there is a way that the early Christians talked about practicing something we call Communion because the night before Jesus went to the cross, he had a meal with his followers, and he took a piece of bread, and he broke it, and that’s where the phrase comes from, and he said, “This is my body. This represents my body that’s broken for you for the forgiveness of sins,” because see, our sin breaks things. It breaks our relationship with God, it breaks our relationship with others, it breaks the world itself that we were made caretakers of. Our sin breaks things, and there’s a price to it.
The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death,” and Jesus’s own death paid the price for that sin, and so his broken body is what healed our brokenness. And for a very long time, Christians have consistently come back to this little meal where we take a piece of bread and we drink a small cup, and what we’re doing is we’re remembering what God has done for us. We’re not just remembering that it happened, we’re reflecting on the significance of it, what it means for us. And Communion itself really is it’s building on a former foundation, something we call Passover, which for thousands of years the Jewish people have done. It’s a meal where they reflect on what God has done for them going all the way back to the way that He set them free from their slavery in Egypt. Then Communion builds on that, and we reflect on what God did to set us free from our sin, set us free for a life with him.
This reflection business is important, and here’s why, let me let you in on why this is so important. Because remembering the enormity of what God has done for us puts what he hasn’t into perspective. You hear me? Remembering the enormity of what God has done for us puts the things that he hasn’t into perspective. How many of you are praying for God to do something in your life? How many of you are feeling like he’s taking his own sweet time and you really wish he’d hurry up? Yeah. I think we all have those things, and here’s what happens, when we focus on those things he hasn’t done, they begin to feel a whole lot bigger, and then when we focus on them, the bigger they seem they get, and the bigger the same they get, the more prone we are to become frustrated with God, and then to move to anger and then even to bitterness, which drives an unbelievable wedge between us and our Heavenly Father. And the remedy for that is to focus on the enormity of the things that he has done because it puts everything else in perspective.
Let me just kind of give you an example from my own life. A lot of you know, I’ve shared it before, and I have permission to. You know, my youngest daughter is continuing to struggle with some chronic abdominal pain, and we’ve done all kinds of routes, and we just haven’t figured it out yet. We’re continuing down that route, but here’s the thing, I’m praying every day that God would heal her. I don’t care if he heals her directly, or if he uses a doctor, I don’t care, God will get the credit for that, every day I’m praying for that, but he hasn’t done it yet. It’s been almost a year, and it’d be really easy to let that thing become so big, that frustration, and anger, and bitterness follow from it, and the only remedy honestly is to remember to reflect on the enormity of the things that he has done for my daughter.
You know what he’s done for my little girl? First off, he loves her so much he sent his Son to die for her. That’s how much my Father loves my daughter. By the way, if you’re here today you need to understand that God loves you the same way. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. And maybe you’re struggling with an issue in your life, and you’re wondering why God hasn’t moved, and why God hasn’t done this, and you need to remember, you need to understand this very central, all-important truth, God loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you.
Craig: He did that for my daughter, and he brought my daughter to faith in that sacrifice. He brought my daughter to the place where she said, “I said yes to Jesus,” she put her trust in what Jesus did on the cross for her in his resurrection. And so, God has saved my daughter, and so I know regardless of what happens in this life, I’ve got an eternity of a life with her in perfect health. That’s a big deal. We’re just getting started. My daughter’s a PK. If you know what a PK is, that means a pastor’s kid. It’s not always a recipe for a long and healthy relationship with God and his people. And for my youngest daughter, actually, she was at a very significant stage in her development when honestly, our life in the church was not easy. We had a lot of struggles going on in the church, a lot of frustrations with the leadership in the church where I was serving in as an associate pastor, and she saw a lot of tears and bitterness, not bitterness from us, but bitterness that began to grow in her towards the church and the difficulty, and she got to this point where honestly she was not okay with the church, and that could have very easily turned into not being so okay with God.
I think God, in his mercy, in his grace, he put a couple of people in her life at just the right moment, and she pivoted. The church didn’t get all better, but she began to see it differently, and bitterness, and anger, and resentment wasn’t the road that she walked, and I’m so grateful for God doing that. That’s what God’s done for my daughter. That’s a big deal. And in the process of doing that, he also began to stir up in her a passion for the lost, a passion for people that don’t know Jesus. Her specific area of passion is people who are in bondage to a lie that gets taught in our culture that you and I are accidents, in other words the lie of naturalistic evolution. She’s deeply passionate about people who have been given that story, that lie, and setting them free for that. That seems to be the path that God has her on. And even in the midst of dealing with this chronic pain, she’s grown more empathetic and more passionate towards people. That’s a big deal. And, you know, I look at all that, and I remember all of that, and I give thanks for all that, and you know what happens? It puts that thing that God hasn’t done yet into perspective. I’m still praying for it. I’m still waiting for God to show up and do that thing, but in the meantime, I’m reflecting on the enormity of what He’s done for and it’s putting that one thing in perspective.
So, what do we do? Well, here’s what we do, we develop a rhythm of remembrance. We develop a rhythm of remembrance. That’s what Luke’s talking about here, a rhythm by which we’re always drawn back to reflecting on what God has done, the enormity of it which puts this other stuff in perspective. Now, you know, one of the things that we do kind of following their model is once a month we do Communion here at Mission Hills. That’s part of a rhythm of remembrance. But honestly, every single week we do something that’s a rhythm of remembrance and that’s worship. We come together and we sing songs, and worship is more than songs, but that’s one of the ways we engage. And if you look at the words of those songs that we sing, what you’re gonna see is they’re all about remembering and reflecting on what God has done for us. We’re singing songs of praise because we’re saying God has done this and we’re giving thanks to him for who he is and what he’s done for us, his goodness and his kindness. That’s an important part of our rhythm of remembrance. And so, I know that the series is called ‘”Don’t Come to Church,” but I’m telling you, you need to come to church or you need to come together as the Church. It’s an important part of this rhythm of remembrance.
You know, you also need to have conversations maybe once a week with friends or in your family where you ask the question, “Hey, what have you seen God do this week?” and you reflect on it. We have those rhythms in our family, one of them is that every year at Christmas, some of you have heard this before, but every year at Christmas, every ornament that goes on the tree, we actually say, you know, “This ornament reminds me of this thing that God did this year.” It’s become on my favorite things. It’s also a little weird because we have a bunch of really strange ornaments. Like I ran across this one last year, I think it’s supposed to be an angel, but it looks like a baby with gout and a couple of wings. I have no idea where it came from or why we own it. I think people sneak this stuff into our house throughout the year, and I won’t tell you what that reminded me of that God did, but that’s what we do. Every ornament that goes up, we go, you know, “This reminds me of something, this is something we saw God do.” That’s just part of the rhythm in our family because those things are so important because healthy Christians consistently reflect on what God has done for them. So, you need that rhythm of remembrance. And the fourth thing we’re told is this, is that, “Healthy Christians consistently invite God into their lives.” The way Luke says it is they devoted themselves to prayer.
Craig: And here’s the thing about prayer. I think a lot of people experience a very unfortunate confusion about prayer because there’s a lot of mixed messages. Sometimes it’s just overly complicated. People say things like, “Well, you know, prayer is a conversation with God,” and people are like, “I’ve been talking to him, but I feel more like it’s a monologue happening. Haven’t heard anything back, didn’t feel like a conversation,” and some people go, “Well, you know, prayer is putting a request before God. It’s asking for what we need,” and other people will go, “No, no, no, no. You know, God’s not a vending machine, God’s not Santa Claus, prayer is not just asking for things.” “Well, you know, well, what is prayer then?” “Well, prayer is, you know, telling God what’s going on in your life, you know,” “But like, yeah, but doesn’t God already know that?” And sometimes all those things that are said about prayer, they’re all true, but sometimes they can make it just way more complicated than it is. Honestly, prayer is inviting God into our lives. It is telling God what we’re going through. And yes, God already knows what you’re going through, but he wants to hear it from you. You understand that?
You know, my oldest daughter is fairly active on social media. I can keep up with most of what’s going on her life through her social media. That is no substitute for hearing from her. I think it’s the same way with God. God knows, but he wants to hear it from you because he’s your loving Father, and it’s about relationship. Prayer is thinking through things and inviting God, “God, would you lead my thoughts in this? Would you show me how to think about this? What are your thoughts on this? Would you guide me? Would you lead me?” It is asking God for the things that we need, and yes, God knows what you need, but let’s just be completely honest. Sometimes God doesn’t give what you need until you ask, you know that? That’s what God himself says, James 4:2, He says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” You don’t invite him into your need with prayer.
And you go, “How can a good God do that? Why wouldn’t a good God just go ahead and give us?” Because he’s too good to just give you everything you need without making sure that you understand where it’s coming from. Right? You know we sometimes say that. . .I was told this growing up, and I don’t know if any of you were, or if you’ve used these own words with your kids, but we say things like, “You know, money doesn’t grow on trees,” and the point is you need to know where this is coming from. Right? God has a very similar kind of a mentality. If he just gives us everything we need without ever causing us to look to the only One who’s the source of all good gifts, that’s actually not for our good. That creates entitled, selfish, bratty children. So, he says, “No, you need to ask. Sometimes you don’t have because you haven’t invited me into your need.” So what do we do? Well, here’s the action point, just take the next step towards consistent prayer, towards inviting God into our lives through prayer
You know, we said this with generosity, we said nobody goes from being Ebenezer Scrooge to Bill Gates overnight, so what’s the next step? And I think we can practice the same kind of thing with prayer. If you’re not praying at all, if you’ve never prayed, start praying. Start praying at least occasionally. If you’re praying some, start trying to pray daily. You know, maybe if you set your alarm and you need just two minutes. That’s the next step, maybe two minutes when that alarm goes off that you’re gonna invite God into your life, share with him what’s going on in your life, and what it is that you’re looking for, what you need, and submitting to him, and trusting him as a good Father.
Or maybe, I put up a website there, missionhills.org is a church website, but there’s a little sub thing called “Mission Watch,” it’s a new ministry that we’ve got going on when we’re asking people to come together. You sign up for one slot, and so for once a week for a month, you go in at that one time you signed up for, and you have this little video to kind of walk you through what you’re gonna be praying for, and there’s a bulleted list, and there’s other people praying online at the same time. And we’re praying for God to move in our church and through our church in the community and in the Front Range…you know, we have this vision to reach every lost person in the Front Range by unleashing an army of missional followers. We know that’s never gonna happen unless God moves in and through us. And so, we’re inviting God in to do that. And so maybe that’s a step, go sign up for one of those slots right now, before the day is over maybe you do that. Why? Because healthy Christians consistently invite God into their lives through prayer. That’s the fourth thing. Healthy Christians consistently invite God into their lives through prayer.
So, what have we learned? Well, number one, we’ve learned that healthy churches prioritize developing consistent Christians. It’s not a secret sauce, it’s not something everybody else knows that you haven’t figured out, no, it’s about consistency, because successful Christians do consistently what others do occasionally. And what are the things that Luke tells us here? And, by the way, there’s more than these four. And so maybe I didn’t touch your favorite one today, you’re like, “Why didn’t he talk about that one?” Because we’re working our way through this passage. And it’s faster if there’s four things. There are more than these four, but these four are foundational, these four are absolutely indispensable. Number one, healthy Christians learn from gifted teachers, number two, they connect with other Christians, number three, they reflect on what God has done in their lives, and number four, they invite God into their lives through prayer.
Craig: These are foundational. So, what happens when we do these? Incredible things, as we’re gonna see next week. Really, these four things seem to set the stage that then God walks out on and God does what only God can do. He’s looking for us to set the stage for him to do what only he can do. We’re gonna unpack kinda what that looks like next week, so make sure you don’t miss that. But incredible things happen when we are consistent in these things.
So, here’s my question to you today. Which of these four things is least consistent in my life? I’m gonna challenge you to wrestle with that question and understand that…I just want you to pick one of them, find the one that’s least consistent because if you say, “You know, I need to work on all four of these. I’m definitely gonna fix all four of these today,” no, you’re not. We’re gonna get this time next week and you’ll be like, “Well, that was a miserable failure.” Because it’s too much. So, what’s the one that’s least consistent your life? Identify that one and then ask the very basic follow-up question which is, What am I gonna do about it? We’ve talked about a number of action points today. Which one of those action points am I gonna take to begin making that one the more consistent in my life, to begin laying the foundation of the stage that God steps out on and does what only he can do in my life and in our life as a church?
Would you pray with me? Jesus, thank you for your goodness to us. Thank you for your love for us. Thank you for your sacrifice on our behalf. And, Lord, thank you that you’re not done. Thank you that you want to move in us and you want to move through us. Well, we want to be the kind of people that set the stage and then step back and watch as you do what only you can do. So would you move in us as a church. That we know the Church is not a building, it’s your people. And so, Lord, there’s no healthy church without healthy Christians, so would you move in us and you make us healthy? Lord, you make us consistent in these areas, and show us the area that we’d really need to push into by the power of your Holy Spirit this week, reveal to us that area that we need to make a step forward in consistency.
We want to set that stage and then watch you do incredible things among us and through us in the world. Now, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor, would you begin praying for the people around you, people who are watching online from all over the world right now? Because I believe there are a number of people right now who found that what really resonated today, what really grab their attention, that it wasn’t all this talk about consistency, those things, it was just this very simple idea that God loves you, that he loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you, that he has done this for you, and that having been raised from the dead, Jesus is offering forgiveness, new life, adoption into the family of God, eternal life, and that is what God is offering you right now. And if you’ve never received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life, there’s no reason for you to leave this time together without that. And if something is stirring in your heart and you’re ready to put your faith in Jesus and receive that new life, would you just slip your hand up? That’s awesome, fantastic.
If you’re watching online, just click the button right below me, and wherever you are in your heart you just say this, just have this conversation with God. You say, “God, I’ve done wrong, and I’m sorry. I know I don’t really deserve a relationship with you but thank you for loving me anyway. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place to forgive my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead and that you’re offering me new life, forgiveness, love. Jesus, I’m ready to say yes to you. I’m ready to put my faith in you. So, Jesus, come into my life. I trust you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.” We’ve had a number of people join the family of God, today. Can we just welcome them into the family? So awesome.
We’re continuing our look at the early church in Acts, a group of people who were honoring God and extending His influence. What can we learn from them about not just coming to church, but BEING the church? Join us!
Craig: Well, welcome to all of our locations on this Palm Sunday weekend. And if you don’t know what Palm Sunday is, then I’ll fill you in real quick. About 2000 years ago, it was on this weekend that Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time before his crucifixion, his resurrection. And as he was coming in, his followers cut palm branches, they laid them on the streets in front of him, which is their way of welcoming as a king. And so for thousands of years now, Christians have celebrated that by giving palm branches to very small children and making them parade through the worship center. Anybody do that as a kid? Anybody? Anybody still have scars from hitting each other with the palm branches? Yeah.
So, they were welcoming him as king but what I think is actually more interesting about Palm Sunday is not just the way that they welcomed him as king, but the fact that when he got to Jerusalem, he started acting like king, like he owned the place. And so the first thing he did was he went into the Temple court and he saw something there that bothered him a lot. And that’s an understatement actually. What he saw were people that were selling animals and exchanging money inside the Temple. Now you need to understand there’s nothing actually wrong with either of those things. What they were doing was not the problem. When they were selling animals, what they’re doing is they were giving people an opportunity to buy the animals they used for sacrifices. Most people didn’t have access to the appropriate animals and so they would buy them when they got to the Temple to offer on the altar.
The other thing they were doing is they were changing money and most people, they didn’t have the coin that was used for the Temple offering. The Temple offering could only be taken in a particular kind of coin, and so most people had to exchange their everyday coins for the Temple offering coin. So, there’s nothing wrong with either of those things. Nothing wrong with what they were doing. The problem is where they were doing it. And where they were doing was a place called the court of the Gentiles, which is a part of the Temple that God had ordered be set aside so that the non-Jewish people, what they called the Gentiles, could come and they could hear from God’s Word, they’d come to understand about God’s mercy and his grace and his love and they can come to understand that the God of Israel is really the God of everyone and they could begin a relationship with him. And so, God commanded that Israel set aside a part of their Temple for the Gentiles to come and worship at.
Which is really just kind of part and parcel of what the Jewish people were as a whole all the way back at the very first invitation that God made to a man who became the father of the Jewish people, his name was Abraham. God said to Abraham, “I’m gonna bless you and you will be a blessing to all nations.” In other words, this blessing I’m gonna pour into you is gonna spill out into all the world. The Jewish people, really, they were supposed to be on mission with God, spreading the good news about God’s love to the rest of the world. But what Jesus found when he came into the Temple courts is the one place that was set aside for the Gentiles had been taken over by a marketplace. There’s nothing wrong with what they did. It was weird they were doing it was a problem because they could have set that up outside the Temple. But they didn’t. They set up in the Court of the Gentiles. And so, if you can try to imagine worshiping when there’s people around you going, “I got the best deal for you. You’re my first customer today. I got the best doves in all of Jerusalem.” It’s pretty hard to worship in that context, right?
And so, Jesus came and he found them and he got a little bit upset. I say a little bit upset, maybe a little bit of an understatement because what the scriptures tell us is he actually, he made a whip. Can you imagine Jesus with a whip? No? He made a whip and then started flipping tables over and he started like chasing people out of the Temple courts, which can you imagine being chased out of church by Jesus with a whip, right? I mean, some of us are like, that would be the best church service ever, right? Like that would be so cool.
And as he went out, he said something, he said this is Mark 11. He said, “Is it not written that my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?” It’s a quote from Isaiah 56. He said, my house has to be a house of prayer for all what? Nations. In other words, not just for the Jewish people, of the Gentiles. They’re supposed to have this place to come and to do that. And he said, “You have made it a den of robbers.” And that’s a quote from Jeremiah 7 where God accuses his people of having oppressed the foreigner and the Gentile and the widow and the orphan and the people on the fringes of society. They were taking advantage of them. They were oppressing them. And God calls his people a den of robbers, literally a den of violent ones because they were stealing from those people an opportunity to understand who God was and that’s exactly what was going on in the Temple courts.
So really it wasn’t what they were doing. It was why they were doing it that really upset Jesus because what it portrayed is on the part of the Jewish leadership and really by extension by the Jewish people as a whole is, they didn’t really care about the Gentiles. They didn’t care if they had the opportunity to hear who God was. They didn’t care if they had the opportunity to find out about God’s love and mercy and grace. They didn’t care if they came to understand that the God of Israel was the God of everyone because as far as the Israelites are concerned, we got it figured out. We got it. We’re experiencing blessings. It’s all good. Who cares if they get it? And the answer is, well, Jesus does. He cares a lot. And that was Palm Sunday, which is really not our focus for today. But it’s not a bad way to set up on our real focuses because here’s basically what was happening.
When Jesus went into the Temple court that day, he found a group of people that were supposed to be his people, but they were dishonoring God and they were limiting his influence. They were dishonoring God. They weren’t caring about the things God cared about. They weren’t even obeying the commands he’d given them, and by doing that, they were limiting his influence. They’re keeping the message of God’s love and grace from extending out beyond Israel into the rest of the nations as it was supposed to. So, they were dishonoring God and they were limiting his influence. That’s not really our focus there. Our real focus today is a group of people who are doing the exact opposite of that, who are honoring God and extending his influence. A group of people that we call the Church, the early Church.
In fact, why don’t you go and grab a Bible and make your way to a description of that early Church? We find that in Acts 2. We’re gonna be picking up in verse 43. If you were with us last weekend, you may remember we actually read through this passage.
It’s a description of the first followers of Jesus. The first people came together as the Church to be on mission with Jesus and last week we only got through verse 42 actually, because this is a loaded verse and we saw four things there that the followers of Jesus were doing. Four things that really, we called successful Christians needed to do consistently. And when I say successful Christians, I mean people who are steadily becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. And God gave us four things there that they’re doing. We see that successful Christians, they learn from gifted teachers. That’s the first thing. They learn from gifted teachers. Secondly, they connect with other Christians. Number three is that they reflect on what God has done in their lives. And number four is they invite God into their lives through prayer. We saw that that was what the early Church was doing and that’s something that we all need to be doing.
If you didn’t catch that message, I really encourage you to either use the Mission Hills app or to catch it out on a podcast because it’s really some significant stuff I think God wants to do in our lives. But what we’re gonna see today is that it kind of goes on and it makes some other descriptions about the early Church. And this is what he says starting in verse 43. He says “Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and they had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. And every day they continued to meet in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and they 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.”
And if I can just tell you that last sentence kind of pumps me up. Can I tell you that? Can I get excited in church? Is that okay? I get excited when I see descriptions like it because what he’s saying is the Church was growing and I get excited when I see churches grow. I love growing churches and honestly, and I know this can be a little controversial for some people, I honestly believe that healthy churches should be growing. I think all of our churches should be growing unless we are doing ministry in a community whose population is declining, I think the Church should be growing for a very simple reason, and that’s because the Church, it’s the people, right? I mean, last week I said, you know, there’s this thing that my mom used to teach me when we’d go, you know, here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and see all the people, which is not right at all. That’s really bad theology, mom. Thanks for that, right?
Because the Church isn’t the people in church. The Church is the people. It’s the people of God. And because the Church is the people of God on mission with Jesus, our churches should be growing. We should be extending God’s influence to the world. We should be inviting people into this life that we have in Christ. And so I honestly believe that because the Church is the people of God on mission with Jesus, our churches should be growing. And sometimes people push back on that and they’ll say, well, you know, but I just, I really liked small church. I’m not saying every church should be a megachurch. I’m not saying every church should be large, but I’m saying that, you know, if the church is staying small because you just liked it to be with each other and you don’t care about the people outside the church, then you’re not the Church. That’s a country club.
Sometimes people push back and the go, you know, megachurch, all they care about is numbers. Craig, all you care about is numbers. Do I care about numbers? Yes, I do. Is it all I care about? No, but I care very deeply about numbers and here’s why. Because every number has a name and every name has a story. Every story has an ending and every ending has a sequel. Do you hear me, Church? Every number has a name. Within a 5-mile radius of the Mission Hills campuses right now, there’s well over half a million people. Most estimates say that between 85% and 95% of those people do not know Jesus. Those are people. Every number has a name. Every name has a story. They’re doing their life with God or they’re doing life apart from God. They’re writing their story with God or without God. Every name has a story. Every story has an ending. The Bible’s pretty clear and I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone. We all die. Anybody shocked? Yeah, life is inevitably fatal. Sorry, but the Bible says it’s appointed a man to die once and after that to face judgment.
Every ending has a sequel. Every human being who has ever been made is gonna last forever. The question is, are they gonna last forever with God in heaven or are they going to spend eternity apart from God in hell? It’s what the Bible says. Every number has a name. Every name has a story. Every story has an ending and every ending has a sequel. Do I care about numbers? Absolutely I do. Because I care about seeing people reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s what the Church is all about. It’s reaching people with the Good News of the life that we have. And what’s so interesting to me here is that they were growing, but maybe the most exciting part of that sentence, it says, the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved, is the word daily. That might be my favorite word in this whole passage. You know why? Because it means they weren’t growing because they had great worship music on the weekends. They weren’t growing because they had excellent messages from the apostles on the weekends. They weren’t growing because they had a great kids ministry or great location. They weren’t growing because of what they were doing on the weekends, they were growing because they were on mission with Jesus every day of the week. They are growing daily. In other words, the people of the church were being the Church every single day. And I love that.
You know, we have this crazy vision that God’s given us to reach every lost person in the Front Range by unleashing an army of missional followers, fueled by local congregations. That’s what the Church is. It’s the people of Jesus on mission with him. And the early Church was living that way. They were going daily because the people of the church were being the Church every single day. And I love that. And I find myself going, okay, so what were they doing, right? Like what was it that they were doing that allowed them to grow every day? And you might go, well, wait a minute, it’s not so much what they were doing because this is the Lord added to their numbers daily. Absolutely true.
But you know, we see throughout the pages of Scripture, very simple truth, which is when we cooperate with what God’s doing, we tend to see more of it and when we resist it, we see less of it. So, I want to know what they were doing to cooperate with God’s work. What were they doing they got blessed with more and more of his work? And what I want to suggest to you is when we kind of boil everything down here, this is the thing that comes out, is that what we see is they were living the life everyone longs for. The church was living the life everyone longs for. The people outside the church were looking at life inside the church going, “There’s something about that strikes, it hits every hope, every desire, every longing. There’s something in me that looks at life as they’re living it and goes, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.
Well, so what were they doing? Verse 43. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. And it’s really easy to read that and go, yeah, everyone is with us. All the Christians were, they were so excited about the miracles that were happening, but that’s actually not what that sentence says at all. First off, everyone is not referring to Christians, it’s referring to everybody outside the Church. There’s a contrast here between everyone in 43, and in 44, he shifts to all the believers. In 43 he’s not talking about all the believers, he’s talking about all the people in the city. In fact, he literally uses the phrase, every soul, which is a normal way of talking about a whole community of people. So, he says every soul was filled with awe. And I understand when he says they were filled with awe, he doesn’t mean that they were really excited. What he means is they were basically, they were awe struck. And it’s not necessarily a positive emotion. In fact, the Greek word there, it’s translated as awe, it’s actually phobos. Does that sound familiar to anybody? Yeah, it’s the word that we get what from? Phobia. And it means what? It means fear. Literally, what Luke says here is the whole city was filled with fear. They were unsettled. They were afraid at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
Now, why would the whole city be afraid of the miracles? We’ve got to understand the context. Remember, the Church is the followers of Jesus, and they had executed Jesus not long before this. Jesus arrived on the scene. He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be the Messiah. And the Jewish leadership and by extension, most of the Jewish people had rejected that claim. They said, “God’s not with you. You’re not the Son of God. Get out of here.” And they crucified him. Then a little thing called the resurrection happened. And that was a little unsettling for the people who had executed him, right? And for the people who went along with it. Because they went, “Huh, you know, I don’t think God tends to resurrect sinners.” So, the resurrection was very unsettling. Now they were so unsettled by it, they actually tried to start a rumor that said, “Well, the resurrection didn’t actually happen. No, no, no. You know, the disciples, they just stole his body.”
Unfortunately for them, according to historical records, more than 500 people met the risen Jesus. So that disciples stole the body story never really got any real traction because the 500 people who saw the risen Jesus, you know what they were doing, they were talking. Can you imagine not? Like you saw somebody raised from the dead, you’re like, that is really amazing. I should keep that to myself. No, you can’t stop talking. So, they were talking about it and it unsettled the people who’d rejected and crucified Jesus. It unsettled them that maybe God had moved and resurrected Jesus. And then earlier in the Book of Acts, this thing we call Pentecost, it’s a Jewish festival, the Jewish believers in Christ were there and the Jewish people who rejected Christ were kind of there at this big festival. And the Holy Spirit came down and the followers of Jesus began to speak in languages that they had no business knowing. And all the other Jewish people were like, you know, “We’re coming from all these different countries? And these honestly, these are kind of like country bumpkin people, where did they learn these languages. They didn’t go to school a little and how is it that we can hear them talking? What’s happening?” And there was a very clear sense God’s moving, God’s doing something and that was unsettling to see God moving in the lives of these people following a crucified Savior. And then other miracles are happening, and Christians were talking about them.
And what happens at that moment they honestly understand this is that when God moves, unbelievers start to fear that their unbelief is a mistake. Can you see that? When God starts to move, those who have chosen not to believe begin to wonder if maybe their lack of belief is a serious error? Now understand, belief isn’t really, I don’t think it’s something we’d choose. I don’t think we can choose to believe or not to believe, but I do think what happens sometimes is we don’t believe naturally, and then we choose to say, “Don’t bother me with facts,” right? I’m pretty happy in my little world here. I’m pretty happy with the conclusion that I’ve drawn. Please do not bother me with more information. I don’t want to hear it and what was happening in the early Church is they’re going out, they’re going, no, no, no no, and the Christians are like, “But did you hear?” “I don’t want to hear.” “But did you hear. Let me tell you.” “But just, would you please just leave me alone?” I was pretty happy in my unbelief and now you keep telling me that God’s moving in the Church. You keep telling me that these things are happening and I’m beginning to wonder if what I thought about Jesus was wrong. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe God is on the move. If God really is this, and I’m wondering if maybe that’s gonna force me to make a change. That’s what was happening. That’s why there was fear.
Listen, guys, you know the TSA gave us this great phrase a few years ago. If you see something, say something. That’s a good spiritual principle. You know that? It’s pretty good spiritual phrase so Christians need to follow. That’s what they were doing. They were following this principle. Basically, if you see God do something, say something to someone. When you see God move, you need to share that because God uses that in a powerful way, not just when dead people get up from the grave. Better believe it when that happens, we need to talk about, we need to be talking about the resurrection of Jesus, right? Not just when people begin to speak in languages they’ve got no business knowing. But if your marriage has been restored because you thought there was no hope and yet God moved and he brought you two back together and you emerge stronger now in Christ than it’s ever been, people need to hear about that. You have a member of your family that was estranged, that was heading down a path and you thought there is nowhere that path is going to lead but to destruction, and something happened and God got into their lives and they did a U-turn and they came back and you were like, “I can’t explain that except that God moved.” People need to hear about that.
If you see God do something, you’ve got to say something. You got to use that incredibly powerful way and here’s the reason why that’s so powerful. Listen to me, deep down, we all long to know that God is involved. I believe that’s true even of the most hardcore atheist. We are built with an innate sense that God is real and we all long to know not only that God is real, but that he is involved in our lives. That you know, that God’s actually paying attention to this little ball of rock orbiting this medium-sized star in this galaxy of 100 billion stars with another 100 billion galaxies. The God who made all that, he knows my name, the God who made all that is paying attention to what’s happening. The God who made all that is actually interested in me and involved in my life and concern for me, hears me, actually loves me. There’s something in us that goes, we want to know that God is involved in our` lives. And when we share the stories of what God is doing in our lives, they begin to go, “I wonder if maybe it’s true. I wonder if just maybe God knows who I am and just maybe God is interested in my life and just maybe God loves me.” Because deep down we all long to know that God’s involved and when we’re telling the stories of what God’s done, we’re stirring that hope, that ember of hope into a flame. That’s what the early Church was doing.
He says verse 44 that all the believers were together and they had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Anybody else get just a little bit nervous there? Time for the ushers to come forward. No. I think one of the reasons we get nervous there, it sounds a little bit like communism, right? And here’s what you need to understand. They weren’t centralizing ownership. They were elevating community. Communism is centralizing ownership. That’s not what was happening. It wasn’t the church suddenly owned all the stuff, they were elevating community. What was happening is they still own their stuff, but they were selling it because they saw somebody who had a need and they wanted to help meet that need. They said, “I got a possession. You’ve got a problem. I can connect my possession to your problem. I can make a difference in your life.” In other words, what they were really doing was they were beginning to live out this Biblical principle that started with Abraham that you’re blessed so that you can be a blessing. They were actually living that out.
Why? Well, I mean what happened? And the answer is very simple. This is what happens when God moves. See, when God moves, we becomes more important than me. When God moves, we becomes more important than me. And here’s why. I think there’s two reasons for it. Number one, when God moves, we tend to start focusing on God. And when we’re looking at God, what are we not looking at? We’re not looking at ourselves. And that’s the first step, it’s the necessary first step to really beginning to embrace selflessness and community, is to not make me more important than we. When we focus on God, that begins to happen. The second thing that happens is that when we’re focused on God, we tend to move towards him. It’s just that basically, it’s a law of human nature that whatever we’re focused on, we tend to drift towards.
When I was in college, we attended Grace Baptist University, Coletta and I, and I loved the church, it was awesome. And there was a woman, she was my favorite piano player of all time and the reason I loved her was because she had a focus like I have never seen anywhere else in my life. Like when she was playing, she was focused on the sheet music. It was like so intense that I was convinced that if like a moth or something flew between her and the page, it would have burst into flame. She was just like… And what was so awesome to watch is that as she played, she would drift forward. And so she’s about that far and then she jerked back and kinda look around, you might notice. Obviously, I was not worshiping, I was watching her and it was awesome. But she’s demonstrating a principle which is, did we have the tendency to drift towards whatever we’re focused on. Now listen, if we’re focused on God, then what happens is I tend to drift closer to God, but if you’re focused on God, then you’re drifting closer to God. But if we’re both drifting closer to God, what’s happening? We’re also drifting closer to each other.
That’s what happens. That’s why when God moves and we’re focused on him, we tends to become more important than me. By the way, this is a really important marriage truth as well. If your marriage is struggling, one of the things that needs to happen is both of you need to renew your focus on Jesus, and as you both move closer to him, you’re gonna move closer to each other. It’s a natural tendency. It’s almost impossible for it not to happen. It’s also the reason why Scripture says that believers should marry believers because if one of them is moving towards Jesus and the other one’s not, there not only, not both getting closer to Jesus, but they’re actually getting further apart from each other, and that’s a very difficult thing.
But when we’re both focused on God, we move not only towards him, we move towards each other. When that happens, we tends to become more important than me. And you need to understand how incredibly attractive that is to the world. Because listen to me, deep down, we all long for true community. Do you understand that? Deep down, we all long for true community and the world doesn’t have a lot of true community to offer us, does it? And you go all the way back to the beginning. When God made Adam, it’s the first time anything negative gets said. He made Adam, he said, it’s not good and it goes on, women, he’s not finished, okay? He said it’s not good that the man should be alone.
He made Eve, he made the woman. And so, they had the first beginnings of community and they had community with God, they had community with each other. They were experiencing real community. But the moment that Adam and Eve decided to sin, the moment that they walked away from God, they turned their backs on him, they lost all of that. And so previously they had run towards God, but now they’re beginning to run from him. And they turned on each other, too. I mean, if you read it in Genesis 3. I mean, Genesis 3 is a tragedy, but there’s this element of comedy in it, too. And this sort of painful truth where God finally caught up because they were hiding from God. Sin makes you stupid, too. Let’s just be honest about this. Okay? God caught up and he said, “Hey, Adam, you didn’t eat that fruit I told you not to eat. Did you?”
And Adam stepped up as the man. He said, “It was the woman,” and I love it, he actually goes, “It was the woman that you put here.” Kind of like, yeah, “I didn’t think it was a good idea. I didn’t want to say anything. I’m just saying, I’m just saying how it kind of worked out,” right? I mean, they turned on each other. And I mean, one of their kids murdered another one, okay? There is a complete destruction and complete breakdown of community. We don’t have it anymore and yet there’s something in us that longs for it still because we were made for it. You know, when we look around the world today and I go, you know, anxiety and depression, like they’re at untold levels. I think it’s because our isolation, our separation, our segregation, our aloneness is at unprecedented levels. And we’re not made for that kind of life.
In the Church, people from the outside were looking in, going, “They’re doing life together in a way that something in me says that’s how it was supposed to be done. They’re experiencing true community that’s incredibly attractive.” It says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts.” And it’s easy to read that and think, well, yeah, they were, you know, they were there to worship God and I’m sure that was part of it, but I understand that the Temple wasn’t just the center of Jewish worship, it was also the center of Jewish society. It’s where everybody congregated, you know, after work. That’s where you kind of hung out. That’s the reason Jesus taught in the Temple courts because that’s where the people were gathered. It’s the reason why in Acts 5, an angel told Peter and the other apostles, you need to go to the Temple and you need to preach the Gospel. You need to tell the Good News. You need to tell them about this life that you have in Christ because that’s where the people were. And so, when they went there on a daily basis, they weren’t going just to worship, they were actually going to extend God’s influence into the lives of those people who were gathered there. They were there to say, “Let me tell you the life that we have but let me tell you the life that you can have. This is what God wants for you. Jesus died for you. You can be part of this.” They were there on mission with Jesus. They were on mission with Jesus. That’s why they were in the Temple every day.
And do you understand how powerful that is for people? Because deep down we all long for a mission that matters, don’t we? Deep down, we all long to be part of something that’s bigger than ourselves. There’s something in every human being that says, “I was made for more. I need a mission that matters.” And I don’t know if you know anybody. My guess is probably most of us do. That you’ve watched them kind of throw themselves into something that just kind of makes you scratch your head like, “That? Why would you do that?”
Some of you may have heard me tell the story. I was in Joshua Tree National Park years ago and we were rock climbing and came around the corner of this big boulder, and I saw three people gathered around a tree and they were hugging it. And I was like, I didn’t think that actually existed but there they’re doing it. And they were saying things like, I’ll give her a hug. She’s so beautiful and this whole, you know, love the earth and protect the earth and we’re part of the earth and let’s hug the earth. And those kinds of things. You know, it’s a little bit sad on some level and sometimes people just, they kind of scoff at it. But I don’t scoff anymore because I understand what’s happening there is, I’m seeing people who are desperate to be part of something bigger than themselves. And listen to me, Church, in the absence of what is real, people will settle for what is ridiculous. In the absence of what’s real, we will settle for what’s ridiculous. If we do not give people a mission that matters, they’ll fill it in with something that doesn’t because they’re desperate to be part of the mission that matters.
The early Church was on a mission and people were attracted to that. It says, “They broke bread in their homes and they ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” If you’re with us last week, you may remember that breaking bread doesn’t just mean they were having a meal, it means that they were practicing communion. They were reflecting on what God had done for them in the sacrifice of Jesus. And here we see the result of it. They were reflecting on what God had done. It says, “They were filled with glad and sincere hearts.” They were filled with gladness, literally filled with joy. They were full of joy and it was sincere joy. That’s important too because you’ve probably all known people, they’re like, “Everything’s great. It really is. Yeah.” Like that’s not sincere. That was not the early Church. They were full of sincere joy, which is interesting because their lives weren’t perfectly easy, honestly. They were beginning to experience more and more persecution from people. Just a few chapters from here, we began to see that they were being executed for their faith in Jesus. Life wasn’t easy and yet they were full of joy. Why? Because they were reflecting on what God had done for them and it was pushing out everything else.
We said this last week, we said that reflecting on the enormity of what God has done for us puts what he hasn’t into perspective. It puts those things that aren’t going well into perspective and they don’t occupy us in quite the same way. So here’s a very important central truth. Rejoicing drives out resentment. Rejoicing drives out resentment. When we are rejoicing in what God has done, we don’t have room for the resentment, for the things that we wish he had or that he hasn’t done or he didn’t do in the way we thought he would, or that we thought he should. Rejoicing drives out resentment. They were full of joy. They’re characterized by joy. Jesus said that by the way. He said that’s what we’re supposed to look like. We’re supposed to be characterized by joy.
And here’s the thing. That’s incredibly attractive because deep down, we all long for joy. Deep down, we all long for, deep down we know that life is not supposed to be as hard as it is and that we’re not supposed to be as cold and as burned out and as broken and as tired and angry and bitter and resentful as so many of us struggle with. Deep down, we all long for joy. And in the early Church, they saw it, even though things were hard, they saw a group of people who were characterized by joy and they went, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Forty-seven says, they were praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. I love that. They were praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. You understand, what they were doing is they were honoring God and they were extending his influence in the world. That’s what they were doing. They were honoring God and extending his influence. They were honoring God. They were giving him praise for everything he was doing, and they were enjoying the favor of the whole community. They were extending God’s influence beyond the Church into the community and the Church was growing. And that’s why I say that what was happening here in the Temple courts every day was the exact opposite of what Jesus found in the Temple courts when he went there on Palm Sunday. There he found a group of people who were dishonoring God and limiting is influence, and now the Church is honoring God and they’re extending his influence in the very same place, the way God always intended it to be. They were honoring God and extending his influence. I just love the fact that they enjoyed the favor of all the people. It’s just an interesting statement because remember, these are the followers of Jesus, so you know the people crucified Jesus, but they had favor upon his people.
Which is exact opposite of the way it seems to work out today, isn’t it? Today everybody loves Jesus. You ever heard anybody say, “I hate Jesus.” No, everybody loves Jesus. They just don’t like us. Well, you, I’m actually okay. How it’s such an interesting thing. Why did the people who rejected Jesus love his people so much? And I think the answer is very simply that the Church was living the life everyone longs for. They were seeing in the Church a way to do life that they instinctively went, “That’s it. That’s what’s been missing. That’s what I know I need.” They were seeing a group of people, they’re seeing a group of people who knew that God was involved in their lives and were giving evidence regularly that God cares, that God pays attention, that God knows, that God loves and he longs to be involved in their lives. They’re seeing a group of people that said, we is more important than me. That said, community is what matters. They were doing life together. That they saw a group of people who are on mission in a way that mattered. They saw a group of people for whom rejoicing was driving out resentment. The joy was what characterized them. Some of the people, they’re honoring God and they’re extending his influence, and because of that I believe, verse 47 says this, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Listen, a healthy church grows by living the life everyone longs for. That’s what was happening. A healthy church grows by living the life everyone longs for. So, as we come into Easter week, as we think about Jesus’s condemnation of those who were dishonoring God and limiting his influence, what does it look like for us to honor God and extend his influence? What does it look like for us to live in such a way that everybody goes, that’s the life I’ve always longed for? Well, let me give you just four quick questions.
Number one, what has God done in my life that I should share with someone? If God is moving in your life, who needs to hear about it? Who needs to hear the evidence that God actually cares, that God really does pay attention, that God is involved then he wants to be involved in their lives. Everyone has that desire deep down. So who needs the evidence that God’s given you that he actually does want to be involved? What has God done in your life that you need to share with somebody?
Question number two is, in what ways am I am more about “me” than “we?” Because we all have them, right? Selfishness is the natural human impulse ever since the fall. And I have them, there’s no question about it. I’m not standing up here perfect. I’ll be honest, almost every afternoon when I get home I round the corner of my house and I’m about to pull my driveway, I have this thought, I’m ashamed of it, but I have the thought like I hope none of my neighbors are out because I just want to get inside. I do. And sometimes I see my neighbor, David, and I go ahh? Then I have to fight this impulse. I mean David lost his wife a few years ago. He’s had all kinds of financial trouble and he just needs friends. And so I have to go, okay, it’s not about me, it’s about we. He’s a follower of Jesus, too. All the more reason. It’s not about me, it’s we. So I have to go, I’m gonna go sit down, I’m gonna sit down and then we’re gonna talk and we’re gonna share our life together.
I struggle with that, but I think we all do, but we have to deal with it. What ways am I more about “me” than “we.” And then we just need to confess that, we need to ask God to move in our lives and we need to ask him to give us the courage to overcome it so that we do life together in such a way that those who don’t follow Jesus go, “There’s something there that I’ve always longed for.”
Question number three, where have I allowed resentment to drive out rejoicing? Because it works the other way around, right? I mean the biblical principles, rejoicing drives out resentment, but the other principle is too, also true, that the more resentful we are, the less joyful we are. The more we focus on the things God hasn’t done, and that we wish he’d do and then we think he should have done a different way or whatever it is, that resentment drives out rejoicing and we’re no longer characterized by joy. And nobody is attracted to a group of people who are characterized by something that was closer to resentment than it is to joy. So where in your life have you allowed resentment to drive out rejoicing? What does it look to start flipping the table there? What is it you’re frustrated about? What is it you’re focused on that’s not ideal and it’s making you hard and it’s making you cold and it’s making you bitter? You can be free of that.
Question number four, how will I be on mission with Jesus this week? How will I be on mission? How will I be looking to honor God and extend His influence this week? Yeah, it’s Easter Week and so let me just suggest one of the easiest ways to do that. This is not the only way. It’s not even the most important way, but it’s a great way to begin kind of grabbing, hold this idea that I’m supposed to be on mission, let’s just invite somebody to come to weekend service with you. Easter weekend’s coming up, we got services on Saturday and Sunday. There’s a Good Friday service. On the way out of the sanctuary, grab one of those cards that’s out there and use that, pray over it and then put that in somebody’s hands. Say, “I’d love for you to come to church with me this Easter.”
By the way, you know in Mission Hills we’ve been saying, you know, that we got 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. And we’ve said, “Hey, please don’t come to 9:30 and 11:00 because they’re gonna be crazy crowded.” But you know what? If you’re going to bring somebody who doesn’t need to come to church, I’ll rescind that. Feel free to come at 9:30 or 11:00. They can be your plus one and you’ll be allowed in. Obviously, we wouldn’t turn anybody away, but we want to make sure there’s room at the 9:30 and 11:00. Those are the crowded ones. But if you’re going to bring somebody, then that’s probably the prime time to do it and we would love to have you come with them at that time of the day, that time of the weekend. We’re gonna have a great weekend. This is not gonna be there. It’s gonna come down. There’s some really cool stuff going on back there. We’re getting ready for Easter. It’s gonna be a great weekend of just rejoicing in what Jesus did on the cross for us and the resurrection that gives us this life that everyone longs for. The question we need to wrestle with is what do I need to do this week to demonstrate this life that I have in Jesus that everyone’s longing for? Would you pray with me?
Jesus, we thank you for new life that we have in you. As your followers are those who have said yes to your sacrifice, said yes to your offer of new life, said yes to faith in you, we say thank you. For we recognize that in you, we have access to the life that everyone longs for and we thank you for it. Lord would you teach us to live in such a way that everyone sees your life in us. As we come towards the celebration of everything you accomplished and make that life possible this coming weekend, would you help us to be in mission of you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor? Would you continue in attitude of prayer? Would you begin praying for the people around you? People watching online. People on other locations. Because I believe that there are people at all of our locations right now who’ve realized they don’t have that life that everyone longs for. Maybe today you’ve understood something about what it was that’s missing. You’ve seen something said, that’s what I need. But if you realize you don’t have it because you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, I just want you to understand you can have that relationship today. You can have that new life today. You can have the life that you’re longing for right here, right now.
If you’re listening to this and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus but you’re ready to say yes, understand he loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. You understand Jesus came for you. He lived the perfect life for you. He went to the cross, not because he had sinned, but so he could carry your sin. He died for you. Three days later, he rose from the dead and right here, right now, he is offering you forgiveness, adoption into the family of God and a new life that goes on for all of eternity. That’s your sequel if you’ll say yes to him.
If you don’t have that relationship, but you’re ready to say yes to him, would you just raise your hand right now? If you’re ready to put your faith in Jesus. That’s fantastic. Awesome. Fantastic. If you’re watching online, please just click the button right below me. And wherever you are, you just say this to Jesus. Say, “Jesus, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m so sorry. I understand that my sin separates me from you. I don’t really deserve this new life that you’re offering. Thank you for going to the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead to prove that you had defeated sin. You rose from the dead to prove that you defeated death and so you’re alive right now and you’re offering me forgiveness and new life. I’m ready to accept it. So Jesus, right now I’m saying yes to you. Right now I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m yours and I give myself to you. Come into my life for now and forever. Amen.” We had a number of people make that decision to join the family of God the day through faith. Can we just welcome them? So awesome.