Our pastor, David, introduced a new mini-series this morning, looking at four characteristics of the early church that are equally non-negotiable for us – both as a church and as individuals.
As Brian Johnston explained to us at the start of the summer, the challenge came to all the Windsor elders at their retreat as to what it means to be ‘devoted’ – devoted to God (Up), devoted to each other (In), devoted to our neighbour and those outside our walls (Out). They felt this challenge was also God’s word to our church.
In Acts 2: 42-47 we see an account of the first church. This was after Jesus’ death and resurrection, after His return to God the Father. Jesus had promised that He would send another ‘helper’ to his disciples, and this was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers. They went out into the streets of Jerusalem, given miraculous ability by the Holy Spirit to speak in the languages of all the Jews living there ‘from every nation under heaven’. Some marvelled; some thought they were drunk and dismissed them. Peter got up and preached the gospel, explaining to the crowd that they must ‘repent and be baptised’. 3,000 people responded to this call. This is the context for verse 42, which describes the first church:
As a church, are these four practices and priorities at the heart of all we do in Windsor? Are we ‘devoted’?
Not only is this a question we must examine as a church, but we must also personalise this and consider our own lives and hearts.
Am I devoted to:
- The apostles’ teaching?
- Breaking of Bread?
David challenged us to consider how we might know whether we are devoted. What does ‘devotion’ look like?
He directed us to re-read Acts 2: 14-40, noting that Peter’s sermon here (i.e., ‘the apostles’ teaching’) consists of him preaching from the scriptures – particularly Joel and the Psalms – and sharing what he’d seen and heard of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and teaching himself. Peter and the apostles taught about Jesus from God’s word. In the Bible, we’ve been given the very source of the apostles’ teaching! God’s word teaches, corrects, trains, rebukes, equips and guides us – if we let it.
We need to reflect on our devotion to the teaching of God’s word – both as a church and as individuals. David reaffirmed WBC’s commitment to keeping God’s word at the heart of our church, so that we are a people shaped by God’s word, constantly challenged and changed by his living, active word.
David asked us to consider our attitude to the public teaching of God’s word in our church. How do we approach the sermon? How is our heart? He again recommended Matt Smethurst’s book Before you open your bible: Nine heart postures for approaching God’s word. God can – and does – speak powerfully through his word, regardless of us or our hearts; yet, as David reminded us, how we approach does matter.
We were challenged: ‘Do I come to church as a passive observer or an active participant?’ Being devoted means being fiercely committed. It means giving absolute priority. Devotion has connotations of love, but it also means we’ll hear God’s word and its teaching even when we don’t want to, when its message is difficult and its teaching costly.
The first church in Jerusalem was not perfect – there is no perfect church! But it was devoted to pursuing God. Examining our devotion to these four practices – the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, prayer – can help us to examine our own hearts.
- Am I devoted?
- Am I devoted – fiercely committed – to the teaching of scripture?
- What would it mean for me to be more devoted?
- What would that look like?
- What has got or continues to get in the way?
Christocentrically (Centre on Christ)
“Just as it take two to tango, so ordinarily it takes an expectant, praying congregation, along with a preacher who knows what he is talking about, to make an authentic preaching occasion” – J.I. Packer