Acts 1:12-14, (Acts 2:42-47)
May 26, 2019
Last week we talked about the disciples and us, awaiting the return of Jesus to this earth. We talked about how they believed his return was imminent. But later, they had to “rethink” that whole thing as the years stretched into decades and then centuries, and still Jesus did not return.
I wanted to piggy-back on that thought this week. As I said, we are all waiting for the return of Jesus. And so I’d like to ask, “What do we do as we wait?” Do we just count the days? Do we just mark the time? Or do we do as Jesus intended us to do, that is, do we continue his ministry? I think you know the answer to that! One of the last things he said to his disciples before his Ascension, was, “You will be my witnesses!”
We read today how they were together in the upper room, and how they devoted themselves to prayer. I believe they were in a place where they were “in the spirit” with God. I hope we can get a little bit of that picture in our minds. And I’d like add to that, these words from the next chapter of Acts. This is from the time after Pentecost, which we will look at in a few weeks. But I think this shows the same spirit in which they lived from our passage for today.
In Acts 2 we read, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:14-17)
That’s a great description of “how they were” together. That’s the attitude, that’s the demeanor they had as they were being the people of God. And I believe that’s the foundation of what they needed to do in order to continue the ministry of Jesus. In order to be witnesses to the kingdom of God, they needed to live as the people of God. And, as we await his return, that’s the kind of people we need to be, too. We don’t wait simply by “counting the time,” but by “continuing Jesus’ ministry.”
Now, I’m not advocating that part where we sell all that we have and redistribute the wealth among us. But I am advocating the other things. I am advocating the love and the caring, the prayer and the sharing. That’s what stands out from this, for me. I like to try to imagine the kind of community those people shared – especially their attitude of love and care for each other!
Now, does that mean they never fought or had differences. Of course not! History and scripture would suggest they did. A good portion of the letters of Paul (and the others) was devoted to telling them how to solve their differences and how to live as God’s people. But this is where they started. And in all of the books in the New Testament, Paul and the others tried to tell them that’s how they were to continue.
And as we worship together today, I think this scripture is appropriate, don’t you? Because we are together today, in this “combined service.” Do we have our differences? Do we ever get upset with one another? I think you know the answer to that one! But the question is not whether or not we do. The question is what do we do about it?
Here’s one of my favorite passages from Paul about this. This is from Colossians. In the third chapter he writes, “As God’s chosen ones – as God’s people, holy and beloved – put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another. And, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other. As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
We could stop right there! We could take those words with us and that would be plenty! But I want you to notice that those are all things that we must choose to do and to be! They are not things that “come naturally!” We must choose compassion, kindness, lowliness, and meekness. Human nature is often the opposite of those. We must choose them. And we must recognize that those are things that God wants us to do and to be. Why? Because God wants the very best for us! He wants us to live lives of peace and joy. I believe it grieves his heart when we quarrel – just like, as parents, it grieves our hearts when our children don’t get along.
God wants the very best for us. And so that’s the kind of people God wants us to be! That’s how God wants us to live! And let me tell you this! When we are living that way, that is attractive to others! “They will know we are Christians by our love” for each other! And it will be compelling! They can get quarreling and stress anywhere! But when they are in a place where people show the peace and joy of life, that’s what they want for their lives!
Of course, the down side of that is that when people come into a church where there is friction and discord, the doors of the Church work both ways! They can go out just as easily as they come it!
One of the things I hear most from “unchurched” people is how “undesirable” church people are. “Why should I go to a church? Church people are always bickering and arguing!” That’s what they think out there. And too often it’s true. One quote I’ve been using myself for years is this. (And I think I made this up!) “There are times I’m glad I’m part of the Church of Jesus Christ already, because looking in from the outside, I wouldn’t want to join!”
As Jesus might phrase it, “It shall not be so among you!” Let’s prove those people wrong! Let’s be the kind of people others want to be around! Let’s be the compassionate, kind, lowly, loving people God wants us to be! And friends, we must be ever vigilant about this. We can’t just “shrug this off.” And I see that! Sometimes I see slogans like “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” And that’s true, of course. But I’ve seen that used as an excuse not to change into the kind of people God wants us to be! And that’s disturbing to me! And I hope it is to you!
You know, we talk about “Evangelism.” And when we do we get “nervous.” (“Evangelism” – the dreaded “E” word!) And we get nervous about it because we’re worried that we’re expected to knock on doors or hand out pamphlets or put bumper stickers on our cars. But we don’t have to worry about that. Sure, that’s fine for some people. But for most of us, the most important thing we can do, in terms of evangelism, is to live like God wants us to live! When we are being the people of God, when we are being “slow to anger and quick to forgive,” and not the other way around(!), when we are forbearing one another in love, that can be the best evangelism we can do! In fact, that’s an essential part of evangelism! Because again, if we do “get them in the doors,” the doors work both ways!
So, I encourage you, I exhort you, I beg you, as Paul begged the Ephesians, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We wait together for the Lord’s return – just like those people in Acts. So, as we do, let us strive to be God’s people, to continue Jesus’ ministry, to be that “light of the world,” as he himself said we were!
Eternal God, we ask for you to teach us continually how to be your people. We are sorry when we grieve your heart with our quarreling and discord. Help us to grow in our ability to forgive and forbear. Help us to see one another with your eyes! For we pray in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom in our midst! Amen!