Acts 20:1-16 The Church as a Priority, Christian Worship and Our Application

NOTE: Blogs written on Sunday are notes that go along with the preaching of our worship service. Not everything spoken appears in the notes and not everything in the notes will be said in the sermon. The notes are a guide, so use them to your benefit and enjoy.

 

Acts 20:1-16

The Church as A Priority, Christian Worship and Our Application

 

For the glory of God, we will disciple the nations by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.

 

Our strategy of the “radical life” as a means to go after Jesus command to disciple the nations for his glory is the power station of our church.

 

Radical Life = Up — In — Out

 

Up – Walking with God is a living and thriving relationship as disciples of Jesus who hear and obey Jesus.

In – Community that images Trinitarian reality of love, equality, service to and lifting up each other that achieves Ephesian 4:1-16 in growing everyone in community up into Jesus, who is the head of his body the church, by the means of every member gifted by the Spirit to grow each other up into Christ.

Out – Disciples of Jesus who hear and obey who serve and grow each other up into Christ engage their domains of society to heal the domain itself and make disciples of those in their domain and by God’s grace one day we’ll learn to plant churches a lot easier and efficient in those domains than our current business models allow for. We need to learn from Scripture a “kingdom” model.

 

What produces this “radical life”, this connected to Jesus and growing out of Jesus into fruit bearing followers of Jesus is not something we have manufactured to build an empire. “Radical Life” are human words applied to biblical principles mined from Scripture to help us do what Jesus told us to do…disciple the nations for his glory.

 

KDSC is the DNA that gives manifestation to the “radical life”.

 

Kingdom – The gospel of the kingdom makes…

Disciples – Followers of Jesus taken from darkness to light and who hear and obey Jesus by engaging their…

Domains of Society – The created framework of God’s order that we are to multiply in, fill and subdue (Genesis 1:26-28) as the practice of disciple making and fulfilling our created roles in order to bring about the building of Jesus…

Church – The bride of Christ that is made up of disciples from all nations that Jesus died to secure and called to be his forever people.

 

Today, we are going to see our text highlight the priority of the church and it’s “in” component because our text puts on display the priority of the church and gives us a glimpse of its internal practice of “in”, fellowship, community.

 

What do we see? What does it mean?

We See that the Church is a Priority v. 1-6; 13-16

20:1-3a… “treats Paul’s leave-taking in Ephesus and his journey through Macedonia to Corinth in the most summary fashion. The account can be supplemented considerably from 2 Corinthians 1:1–11, where Paul discussed the events of the same period. There had been considerable tension with the Corinthian church during the final portion of Paul’s Ephesian ministry. Paul seems to have written a rather confrontive letter to that congregation during that period. He described the letter as “painful” and written “with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:3f.). Strong opposition to Paul had arisen in the church, and there were attacks on his status as their apostle. In the letter Paul seems to have confronted the opposition directly and severely. The letter was sent by way of Titus, and Paul evidently wanted to hear Titus’s report back to him about “how it went” before proceeding himself to Corinth.”[1]

 

Evidently Paul wrote 2 Corinthians at this point and sent it on ahead of his own coming. Finally he went to Corinth himself. This was the visit referred to in Acts 20:2–3 as his three-month stay in “Greece.” It was his final visit to Corinth and probably took place in the winter of a.d. 55–56. During this time he wrote the Roman Epistle.[2]

 

We learn in Corinthians that Paul is gathering an offering for some fellow believers suffering from famine in the church at Jerusalem and Paul is eager to get himself and this offering he has collected from the churches to Jerusalem.

 

What do we see? What does it mean?

We See the “in” Elements of Early Christian Worship

This language used as our heading for this section is important because worship in the bible has less to do with singing songs and more to do with the totality of the life lived as a living sacrifice to Jesus (Romans 12:1-2).

 

The church met regularly with other believers on the first day of the week. v. 7

These guys came from work because the first day of the week was a work day. The Sabbath was Saturday.

 

This is one of the earliest references to Christians meeting for worship on Sunday, the first day of the week. Christians may have continued to observe the Jewish Sabbath as well, but eventually the Lord’s resurrection day became the sole day of worship for Christians.[3]

 

The church met to celebrate the Lord’s supper, perhaps, within the context of a larger meal together. v. 7, 11

Verse 7 indicates their purpose was to obey Jesus in his command to observe the Lord’s Supper and they did this within the context of a meal together.

 

This is not an unholy and profane dumbing down but an imitation of what Jesus did when within the Passover meal he took elements of that meal and gave them their full meaning. This is not Budweiser and Cheese-its. This is bread and wine within the larger gathering of the people of God.

 

The church met to hear the word and study it together. v. 7, 9, 11

 

The church experienced supernatural power v. 8-10, 12

 

The church practiced some form of Acts 2:42-47

  • Apostles teaching
  • The fellowship (referring to gathering as special and definitive for God’s people)
  • The breaking of bread (Lords Supper due to the definite article)
  • The prayers
  • Awe
  • Signs and wonders

 

Since this passage centers on the church in practice how about doing a little ecclesiology (the study of the church)?

The church is visible or put on display in 4 ways:

  1. The universal church unified Ephesians 1:22-23 “…gave him as head over all things to the church…”
  2. The city/local church 1 Corinthians 3:16 “…you (plural) are God’s temple and that the spirit dwells in you.” (to the church at Corinth)
  3. The cell/RL group 1 Corinthians 14:12, 23-26 (The church coming together to build up with the use of the gifts presumably in the smaller setting…all of the churches up until Constantine were house type churches that combined the local/cell function into a weekly gathering and other gatherings throughout the week. What we know as our current set up is a result of post-Constantine legalization of Christianity and the inheriting of larger facilities to gather in large gathering style settings thus creating the need for the setting in which person to person encouragement can better take place.)
  4. The personal body 1 Corinthians 6:15 “…your bodies are members of Christ…”

 

So, the church is all Christians globally…Christians come together in covenant locally…Christians covenanted locally together to serve each other with the gifts…us as individuals who follow Jesus as a member of Jesus (a follower of Jesus who is part of other followers of Jesus who serve the common purpose).

 

Therefore, the church and its function are clearly vital and are not to be overlooked.

 

How do we obey this at TRC?

  1. We are part of the global church and seek to serve the Kingdom globally. We seek to make this visible by serving the global church in discipling the nations.
  2. We are a local church who covenants with those who want to covenant with us to do kingdom work together.
  3. We are or should be gathering with covenant partners, who are individual members of Jesus, to use the gifts to build each other up into Christ.

 

What does this gathering with covenant partners look like? We call it a RL group. Where we practice UP/IN/OUT as the means of helping us disciple the nations.

 

Radical Life Group Gathering

  1. Apostolic (5 Minutes) – Build up!

Remind yourselves of the purpose. The apostles keep the mission front and center and push for keeping the mission in view.

 

What is the mission? Ephesians 4:1-16…Build everyone up into Jesus, who is the head.

 

  1. Prophetic (10 Minutes) – Worship!

Listen by taking a few minutes to pray and ask the Lord to be glorified in your time together.

Read a Psalm or two and give thanks to the Lord for all that he should be thanked for.

If you have someone gifted in music, sing one song.

 

  1. Teaching (20 Minutes) – Teach each other!

Colossians 3:16

Share insights from your bible reading.

Share insights and applications from the sermon.

Read and reflect on the Scriptures together.

DON’T LET ONE PERSON DOMINATE THIS TIME. EVERYONE NEEDS TO PARTICIPATE.

 

  1. Pastor (10 Minutes…all week) – Take care of one another and serve one another’s needs.

Communicate regularly. Use texts, calls and emails.

Gather for one on one time over coffee.

 

  1. Evangelism (15 Minutes) – Pray for those who need to come to faith in Jesus.

Bring friends who need to know Jesus to be part.

 

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV) “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”

 

Expect to see and exercise these Spirit gifts together and those outside the kingdom may just fall down and worship God because they see that God is really among you.

 

Mission accomplished!

 

 

[1] This “epistle of tears” is most likely no longer extant, although many scholars feel that 2 Cor 10–13 is a portion of it.

John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 414–415.

[2] Ibid. p. 415

[3]  Ibid. p. 418.

 

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A Temporary Implement to Kill Sin

We are participating with our fellow Jesus’ followers across Rome/Floyd County in 21 Days of Connection at TRC. We have written about why we pray and fast as well as some expectations and practices.

The Scriptures demand that citizens of Jesus’ kingdom put to death the “flesh”.

Here is a sampling of texts that speak about our “flesh” and what we are to do with it:

Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22-24 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Romans 8:12-17 (ESV) 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV) Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Let me say this: it is impossible to do a complete exposition of these texts in a single blog post. Each passage deserves it’s own sermon, but I’ll try to be fair to the context of each passage in making application.

With that in mind, let’s observe some truths.

  1. The flesh is the bible’s way of speaking about the curse of the fall that has infected our physical bodies and has caused them to eventually die and while alive desire the kingdom of darkness and that kingdom’s dark manifestations.
  2. The flesh is opposed to the Holy Spirit and his work in cleaning us up and producing in us holy desires that are manifestations of the kingdom of light.
  3. The flesh cannot be stopped by harsh lifestyles that reject good things all the time due to misunderstood and misapplied laws.
  4. The flesh desires some evil stuff.
  5. The Spirit produces things contrary to the flesh.
  6. Christians have to put the “flesh” to death or they evidence they are not sons/daughters of God.

So, what does an emphasis on prayer and fasting have to do with all of this stuff about the “flesh” particularly if harsh treatment of the body is no help in stopping the indulgence of the “flesh” as Paul said in Colossians 2:23, as posted above?

  1. We are to pray at all times. That’s written. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  2. Jesus assumes we’d all get the Old Testament passages instruction regarding fasting and that we’d practice it (Matthew 6:16-17 and note that the Lord said “when you fast…”)
  3. Fasting is different from prayer in that it is not a constant state of living. Fasting is not simplifying life. Fasting is doing without something for a period of time in order to seek God and receive his power in our lives. This happens because when our bodies and souls have less and we fill that space with prayer and other biblical ways of seeking God we hear, receive, ask, seek, knock and expect the Good Father to give.
  4. Fasting also helps us to put a sword to our “flesh”. Sometimes, because of the fall, even those who have believed the gospel, received a new heart and new desires by the indwelling Holy Spirit have a battle. This battle is spoken of by Paul in Romans 7. This battle is one where some of our desires are set against our soul and it’s easy to give in to and do the things that are not good while it’s super hard to do the things that are good. This is the battle against the “flesh”…the left-over vestiges of the curse in ourselves that wage war against the work of the Spirit. You know what your flesh is if you are in Christ. You feel the struggle. Fasting helps us to kill that thing. Martin Luther said that his flesh “grumbled dreadfully”. Mine does too. If I don’t put my sinful desires to the sword daily, I fear those desires may rise up and have me. Fasting helps me to kill that murderous nature that wants to choke out life.

So, if the withholding of items of food or drink or technology is hard, that’s because it’s a fist fight and the flesh is punching back. You had a plan and you are trying to work it but it’s hard. Iron Mike Tyson, a famous boxer, once said that “…everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” You had a plan but your flesh has punched you in the face and you want to quit. Don’t quit. Work the plan. Stay the course. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE. Don’t let your flesh win.

Here are a few tips on staying the course:

  1. Even if you are on a total fast, get your body moving and blood pumping. If you are not on a total fast, do a workout. Physically make your body obey. You will receive the good old endorphin rush and you’ll actually feel better.
  2. Pray. When it gets hard, actually call out to the Lord. Out loud. Ask for help. Wait on the Holy Spirit to lift you and guide you and counsel you.
  3. Make sure you are encountering the Lord in the Scriptures. Use the bible as your guide.
  4. Be competitive. Don’t accept loss. My boys like to compete. I like to compete. My youngest routinely hears from opponents this question during basketball games: “why are you so angry?” He’s not angry. He’s playing to win. He’s competing hard. He’s out working the other lazy bums who are just happy being out there. If  you don’t wan to win, don’t play sports. Do something else. Fun is secondary to winning. Losing is not fun. We have fun if we win. Sorry if that offends. But its a fact jack. Point? Don’t accept losing to Facebook. Have enough self-pride (not talking about sinful pride in being opposed to God, so don’t email me about my choice of words) to not let something that actually does not physically exist to beat you. You understand there is no “Facebook” stand anywhere, right? It’s a program on the inter webs. It does not physically exist. Don’t lose to that! Demand that you win against these little things. Maybe what you are battling is not little. Maybe its a beast of a monster in your life. Don’t lose to it. Do what you have to do to win against it as long as you are not breaking a commandment.
  5. Talk about the challenges in your small group. Help each other succeed.
  6. Look forward to the reward both present and future. There is no loss in seeking God no matter what we give up. Treasure is stored up in heaven and supply for the Kingdom here. It is no sin to strive for Jesus’ reward. Jesus told us to live for Kingdom reward.

Keep battling! I know you are doing well. Fasting is just a temporary implement to help you kill sin. By Gods grace that is happening.

Soli Deo Gloria!