While communities based around politics, sports, BBQ and regional accents may help us find people to associate with as friends, they fall far short of the authentic community that God has in mind for us. In the book of Acts, Luke described the “true community” of the first century church. He noted that they were marked by four “devotions.” We can experience this authentic community when we pursue these four devotions.
Below is an automated transcription of this sermon:
Thanks for listening to the podcast from gary preaching team at wilson community church in wilson, north carolina. Check us out on the web that w c c nc dot a work for more. And now here’s the sermon
people try all kinds of things too to not be lonely all kinds of ways hobbies and so forth to try to connect to other people so that they have community and we try some ways that are kind of laughable if you really think about it one of the ways we try to form a community might be our political view you know whether you pull for for a donkey or an elephant you know that might be how you decide what your community is right some of us it’s just based on your favorite shade of blue that does it for some of you see what we have here already division in the church
the apostle paul warns against that we’ll get to that later so for some of you it’s just about barbecue what’s your favorite barbecue you know is it tomato based like the western part of the state or is it vinegar based like we do here we moved here from roanoke, virginia some years ago when the first pig picking was quite a eye opening experience and then how do you refer to other people that are in a group nearby? Do you say y’all like we’re supposed to or like this other region like i did a scientific study on this and found out there’s actually like a dividing line like you can tell where people are from by where they say you guys or y’all and then there’s this little known segment of the nation this is yous guys yous guys right there some of you know who you are you’re in the building right now so communities are based around politics and sports and barbecue and accents regional accents but these really aren’t the kind of community the bible’s talking about it doesn’t have that level of intimacy that level of authenticity
dr scott peck talks about this he says where participants are nice with each other and playing safe one has merely a pseudo community in this setting people present only the most favorable sides of their personalities when people move beyond this in authenticity and present their true selves admitting their own brokenness common to all human beings they approach true community here the individual experiences deep respect for self and others in the community this is a glorious place that fulfills the yearning of every human soul for understanding from one’s fellows and so we want to move past pseudo communities or fake communities we are there just working at it but not really accomplishing it so how do we do it?
We’re going to be looking at the book of Acts and this is really the dna of our small group ministry and many of you that are involved in small groups you know this by heart we’re going to be looking at these four devotions of the apostles teaching the fellowship the breaking of bread and prayer
in this series we’re going to call the first sermon a shared faith which we’ll talk about today the importance of having the same faith a shared family so that we are born again and we recognize that we are brothers and sisters and we’re going to start sitting closer together next week right? We’re going to start doing that next week i appreciate some of you that went ahead and moved did you see that some people actually believe their pastor and started moving while we were singing and trying to get the words right up here and the next week we’ll talk about a shared food because you really can’t have community without food right? And then finally a shared focus so that’s the four sermons that we will be talking about we’re going to talk about today three steps on how to have a shared faith you ready? Get your seat belts on here we go
this is in the book of acts chapter two let me read it to you and this is a description of how it looked to be in the first century church and just the simplicity of how they had church and how god moved so miraculously and they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers and awe came upon every soul in many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles and all who believed were together and had all things in common and they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as any had need and day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes they receive their food with glad and generous hearts praising god and having favor with all the people and the lord added to their number day by day those who were being safe this is god’s work amen
we’re going to be talking about how to have the shared faith of christ’s community here’s the first step share the same confession share the same confession look at verse forty two again it says they devoted themselves that were devoted is the key verb in this passage devoted it has this idea of continually facing towards to keep your eye on it don’t take your eye off this it’s in the greek language it has turn your face towards this and then what we’re seeing here is they were focused on four devotions that they wouldn’t take their eye off the ball on these four to earnestly pursue constantly and diligently give of themselves holy to pursuing in the first mark that the first devotion was that they were devoted to the apostles teaching so they were devoted
notice it says The teaching The Gary you are going to be preaching on words like The well i am this morning right because it’s important it wasn’t a teaching it wasn’t just any teaching it was the teaching that the apostles were teaching it was a specific teaching and we know that the centerpiece of the teaching in the first century was the cross of christ that they preached the gospel and so were committed
at this church every time we preach we’re going to preach the whole word of god we’re going to work through the bible but every time we’re going to look for christ because that’s the key to the bible you won’t understand the bible you have to read it through the lens of jesus and so we find jesus and then we know what the passage means to us and so they were committed to that so not just a teaching but the teaching so they had a common confession a shared confession that they had confessed christ as savior and lord we are to share the same confession of faith
you can’t be a part of this family without confessing christ that’s the entry point you must be born again and you cannot be born again of the spirit absent christ you must know jesus as your lord and savior
look what paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 10 he says if you confess with your mouth confess means to say it right speaking say it confess with your mouth that jesus is lord jesus is the boss. Jesus is the master. Jesus is he’s, the pilot he’s in charge, and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead. You will be saved. Not maybe, not later, not not. Maybe you’ll be saved. Not later, you’ll be saved. If you check off these five things, no, if you say jesus is lord of my life and you mean it and you believe in your heart the story of the gospel that says he defeated sin, death and the grave, and he raised you will be saved. Have you made that confession? Have you confessed that and said that with your own lips, for it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with god? It is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
So listen we can’t go on this journey together until you get your birth certificate god wants to adopt you into his family but you must be born again you must confess we share the same confession and as we share the same confession then we share the same faith the entry point is jesus so we have a new birth certificate a spiritual birth certificate we’re born again in christ and now we share the same pursuit of studying what god’s word says and the way we work it out here is every week that way we preached the word and we ask you to take notes and to think about it pray about it and apply it to your heart but then during the week we’re challenging you to meet in small groups as they did in the first century and move it from head to heart i’m not talking about digging in and trying to get more knowledge i’m talking about application where you’re moving it from a confession to a deeply held conviction of faith
here’s what it says in the book of Ephesians there’s 1 body and 1 spirit just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call one lord one faith one baptism one god and father of all who is over all and through all and in all do we share the one faith so that’s the mark that’s the mark that’s what made that first century church so dynamic and powerful
you know there’s a lot of debate today about building a wall don’t build a wall open the borders close the borders all these things i don’t have an opinion to offer about that today i’m just a preacher i just try to preach the gospel and i know god knows what he wants to do about all that but i will say this i admire those who choose to move to this country and then pursue lawfully the idea of being a citizen i think that’s a beautiful thing that you do you know what you have to go through to be a citizen i mean you have to jump through a bunch of hoops if you’re not born in america now listen if you’re born in america you have no idea what it takes but if you’re not born in america what it takes to be a citizen of the united states it takes quite a lot listen to this oath and pop this photo up first these are some people what a beautiful photo these are people that are now saying the oath they’re sharing the same confession of what it means they’ve got to say that before a judge before they are declared citizens of the united states here’s what they have to say this is the oath of american citizenship i hereby declare on oath that i absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure oor all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince potentate state or sovereignty of whom or which i have hereto t for been a subject or citizen that would be kind of like saying i’m not going to follow the world i’m not going to follow the devil i’m going to follow jesus i’m getting it done what if you turned it into a heavenly oath they first have to put off their former allegiances then it says i will support and defend the constitution and laws of united states of americans all enemies foreign and domestic that i will bear true faith and allegiance to the same that i will bear arms on behalf of the united states when required by law that i will perform noncombatant surface in the arms forces of the united states when required by law that i will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law i mean you’re signing up for doing some stuff here and it’s kind of like if you sign up to be an american now you got to serve and then i take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion so help me god an acknowledgement whereof i have here unto a fixed my signature then you sign it on the dotted line that’s just part of it that’s after you’ve memorized all this stuff and you’re able to pass the citizenship test
i wonder if you could pass a citizen’s ship test today from god’s word from the bible i wonder if you’ve ever said i have put off all others including myself and especially myself i’m putting off the world the devil anybody else i am going to follow jesus and not only am i just confessing that i’m going to do that i’m going to do what he says i’m going to serve him i will go to war for him spiritually for him i’ll do whatever i’ll do have you done that? Have you made the confession do you want to be a citizen of heaven it’s not about taking a seat in the church
we’ve heard this before you can go stand in the garage but that doesn’t make you a car you go sit in the church doesn’t make you a christian how do we become christians? We make the same confession we make the same confession jesus you’re lord of my life I trust you and i believe you i believe you died on the cross for my sins that you’re alive today come live in me i give you my life holding nothing back have you ever done it? Have you ever made the confession and then having done that the mark of this shared faith is the same passion
this is our second step how do you have this kind of community our dear apostle luke who wrote the book of acts is talking about how do we have a church where there are miracles and people’s needs are being met and that the lord is adding to their number daily those who are being saved because here’s what the bible says the bible doesn’t say to build the church the bible teaches us to be the church if you will be the church christ will build the church he says if he says when i’m lifted up i draw men into myself if you lift up jesus that’s our job be the church he’ll build the church
he told peter upon this rock i will build my church on what rock the rock of peter’s confession peter said thou art the christ the son of the living god because on that rock I will build my church so we don’t need to build the church we need to be the church and part of that is sharing the same passion
look at verse forty two they devoted themselves so we’re gonna look at that word themselves and then it says in verse forty six and day by day attending the temple together so this confession immediately led them to this togetherness we are americans right we believe in freedom and standing on your own two feet in fact we believe it so sincerely we feel like we don’t need any of the rest of you but that’s an american cultural belief, but it’s, not biblical.
The bible teaches us that when we make the same confession we’ve entered into this family, and we need each other. Turn to the person next to you. Some of you will have to yell because you won’t sit together. And say, the bible says we need each other We need each other. yeah, look at some of you you have to get up, walk around, remember talking, not be ashamed. Like, i’m not coming back that church. They tell you where to sit.
Share the same passion they had a passion for each other and they had a passion for the teaching this teaching you see the new testament hadn’t been written yet when acts
was written so this was happening fresh from the apostles what the apostles would do is they would choose the old testament as their text because that’s what they had and they would preach out of the old testament but they would preach christ out of the old testament and then they would write letters to the churches to follow up with them and that’s how we got the new testament now the four gospels were written to tell us the story of jesus because we need to let that new church over there know the full story of jesus maybe we should write it down you know some of us know it by heart we could go over there and tell them what we know because we’re eye witnesses but you know what’s going to happen if we’re not here anymore so they wrote four copies from four different perspectives on one story the story of jesus so they didn’t have the new testament they had the apostles teaching you all with me but it was being written during this time
now what we have today is a wonderful thing it’s all written it’s finished and right there it lays right there it is and then my job see, the word apostle means one sent and literally the word apostle means one sent to do what to preach the gospel it’s like a synonym for ambassador. And so i’m not an apostle in the sense i wasn’t there, i didn’t see the resurrected jesus, so in the formal sense i’m not an apostle, but in the literal sense of the word, i am an apostle, i’m sent i’m called, i could tell you the story. I don’t have time right now, the lord shipwrecked my life, and interrupted my plans and turned me in a different direction, and he wants to do the same to you, and he wants all of you to be one who is sent. He wants to mess all of you up , but as we’re growing together, will you stay under one that’s sent , and will you get a passion for this teaching?
Some of you are sitting here right now you’re like man i love that book i love to hear it preached i love to hear it taught i love to chew on and read it memorize it and some of you are like amen i get that i love it some of your here today and you go i used to be like that i used to be like that something’s happened it’s just dry like chewing on old dr cornflakes or something without any milk it’s just crunchy but itchanged pray about that ask the holy spirit to refresh your soul soome of you here and you know it’s never hit me like that go back to point one have you confessed jesus have you confessed jesus because if you have the holy spirit within you will give you a love for the word
some of us are readers and some of us aren’t as good at reading not really talking about that whether you’re good at reading or not if you’re a born again christian and you’ve made the confession for jesus he will lead you to have a passion listen to me he leads you to have a passion for the preaching and teaching of god’s work (not one amen in the house all right i’m still working on you people I even paused we don’t have an organ player up here but we get can get one you know how to do it don’t you honey) Gary you are preaching different today well i sang that song and start remembering how my mama’s pastor used to do it yeah he had passion for god’s word
do you have a passion for god’s work do you study second timothy says study to show yourself approved under god a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth in other words cut it straight study it so you cut it straight
james says don’t just listen to god’s word you must do what it says so study it and do it sounds like a nike commercial or something delight in it the Psalm says blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of the sinner nor sits in the seat of scoffers but his delight is in the law of the lord and on his law he meditates day and night do you delight in it and do you do it together because they did they didn’t just sit somewhere now you should you should sit by yourself and study it but you should do both do it together because the holy spirit will tell this person or that person and you go oh, i never saw that before oh and then that will affect you and then you’ll say something that goes oh, that affected me
i was at small group this past week, and we were praying together, and one of the members of the small group in the circle started praying that they saw battle happening in our church. And they started praying what they saw. And i went, oh, yes, i see that, too, and i affirmed that when i was praying and another person started praying i hear a song. I hear a song, and i was in the group, so i asked if we could sing it together. . So then we sang together with our heads bowed. You can do that. Yeah, if you know the words. Yeah, something about praying and studying God’s words corporately . Oh, man, don’t miss it
Colossians say this Let the word of christ dwelling you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thanksgiving in your hearts to god do it together . This is the mark of this community. We circle around this book and we study it, and we believe it, and we apply it to our lives. Amen..
My brother barry came in and brought his horde down from the mountains to my house this weekend you wouldn’t believe what my house looks like they have wrecked my house but it wasn’t just his hoard my hoard showed up to see his hoard and even if his hoard hadn’t come my group would have wrecked my house anyway so barry don’t feel bad they wreck it anyway grandkids everywhere what a blessing right so you have to feed them it is wonderful though everybody’s there and there’s a lot of babies and they don’t talk yet they can’t talk yet they just moan and groan and get upset they want to be fed or changed or whatever they don’t know how to say it
the bible says in 1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow have you ever seen a baby that’s hungry it will cry you can try everything but you better put some milk in that baby’s mouth that may be what drives you crazy too you take care of that right there and and peter says you know a mark of a new believer that’s got the taste of god’s word is like a newborn baby they want some word and you better give it to them
do you have a passion for god’s word are you like a newborn baby? I gotta have it. They gotta have it i gotta have it every day. I can’t wait till just sunday. I gotta have a dose every day, but i love to get together with god’s people and hear it together because that’s worship this is worship We think worship is just when we’re singing. This is worship right now. This is worship around the word. We’re serving the word right now, and then in a little while i’m gonna give you a chance to respond and that’s worship to how you respond to the word. Do you have a passion? And
number three look at this, stephen, those big old time marks up there, so as I was singing , i got negative, something other going on that’s not right, uh, thanks brother. Sharing the same submission. Share the same submission look at verse forty two. Again, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders, and miraculous signs were done by the apostles
we’ve already talked about how the word apostle means one sent. But in those communities, they were the ones who had authority and so to have a community. You have to recognize certain authorities, and then you have to submit to them. And so people that are willing to submit to god’s word were also submitted, willing to submit to those that god has put over them where it is your your community group leader, or whether it’s in children’s church down the hall and the people that are serving there, if you’re on a ministry team it’s, whoever the captain of that team is,
we’re not rebellious we are not to be rebellious people. We came out of that we used to be rebellious, rebellious against god, rebellious against everything we are to be people that make it easy for our leaders to lead. We’re to be people that are submitted to god’s word and submitted to the authorities that god puts over us i’m submitted to god i’m submitted to god’s word and then i’m submitted to the ones that god chooses to put over me because that makes it all work
if it’s in your house you are submitted to your parents that’s what we just finished right? We just finished that series but if it’s in god’s house you’re here to submit you’re to be a person who wants to make it easy and i’m not talking about being a slave or being mindless i like what paul said over there to the church at berea he says, i like the way you bereans do things you listen to me preach then you went back home and you dig in the word of god to verify whether or not i was telling you the truth so their submission was to god first and then to god’s word and then to the apostle
i would love to have you be like that for us to be like that and say now i like gary you know, i don’t like everything about gary, but i like some of things about you but that see that it’s not really what this is about. What i really appreciate is that he loves god’s word and so do i and we’re pursuing it together so i’m gonna listen to him because it’s helpful for me, too, but i’m gonna go home and check on that stuff, he said, make sure it’s right, make sure it’s in there and then i’m going to encourage him so that he will keep on doing it, not give up because we need people to be leading like that. Then when i get in a community group, i’m going, i’m going to tell my community group leader, i appreciate the way you prepare in advance so that you know how to lead us every week, and so i can ask my crazy questions and throw out them rabbits i get you chasing I appreciate you this week and commit to grow
Would you go to your community group leader and say, i appreciate you I appreciate the time you put into study god’s word and i listen to you and i submit to your leadership, make it easy for people to lead and make it a joy for me. That’s what the scripture teaches
Hebrews chapter 13 says, obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account, let them do this with joy and not with groaning for that would be of no advantage to you. Do this with joy, not with groaning. Submit to the teachers of god’s word
it says in first thessalonians for you remember what we taught you by the authority of the lord jesus so i’m not really the pastor of this church i’m the under pastor i’m the under shepherd this is jesus’ church right it belongs to him but i work for him he’s my boss and so that’s the way we want to think right want to come under authority let’s be the kind of people like how can we be a community like it says here this unified community that’s on the same page focused the same way continually
the first thing is that we share the same confession we believe in jesus we are jesus people and we share the same passion we love god’s word and we’re not hard to get along with we’re on the team we are not always trying to pull it the other direction that way man i wish we could go do that over there no get on the team so we could do something
the world can’t stop the church only the church can stop the church and it does it over and over again the problems aren’t out there we think the problem’s are out there problems are in here problems are in here we’re not submitted to god we’re not submitted to god’s word and we won’t submit to the people that god puts over us because we want to be god of our own life .
See we all tend to be a bunch of christian atheists. We say we believe in god, but we live like we don’t so come under submission and be willing to do the things that are recommended to you by the leaders who have to give an account for your soul before god. That scares me to death. By the way, wish they’d left that part out of the bible. Sometimes i look at that guy, go let them do this with joy and this is keeping watch over yourselves as those who will have to give an account it’s bad enough. I got give an account from my mess. I have got to give an account for your mess too. That ain’t fair. That’s what it says so not many should desire to be leaders unless they’re willing to come under that level of accountability. Wow, that’s what it says in the book of james, right? Not many should desire to be teachers because you’re held at a higher account now what i’m saying is we need you to teach because we need you to be willing to be held at a higher account.
I got this email from a community group shepherd this week it was just perfect timing i needed an illustration right here he had sent out an email get this now this is a brilliant idea to send out an email to all of the members of his community group to ask them to recommit for another year to send him an email by the end of the week and say i’m willing to be loyal what did they say? i don’t know how many people responded to that but one did he got one response i hope the rest of them did and he sent it to me and i won’t name any names but it says here is the email this person says to him i don’t have to wait any longer because he’d given them to the end of the week i don’t have to wait any longer to give you my answer for god has placed upon my heart to stay devoted to my community group i not only want to be with all of you but i have a need to be with all of you it’s what gets me through the rest of my week you all are my family in christ and i love you all i will be in prayer for all the ones in our group. Thank you to this shepherd for sending out this request. What? I want people like that around me who you give it to the end of the week and the next morning you get a response and they’re like, i’m all in and i’m praying for the rest of them i want to be that kind of a follower too, because sometimes i’m just on the team. I’m not the leader of every team. I’m the leader of some teams sometimes i’m just a follower and i i hope i’m a good one there’s a time for each because our ultimate leader is jesus. He is the boss that’s the confession, right ?
Have you made the confession? Have you made the confession? Don’t leave here this morning without doing that. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. And do you have a passion for god’s word? It is a gut check right now for everybody in the room. Do you have a passion for god’s word? If not, why not? And so that’s like a health check. It’s a spiritual health check right there and then are you willing to be under submission? Are you willing to be on the team? Christianity is not a call to be a lone ranger it’s a call to be part of a community. He has all these beautiful words in the bible for a family. The family of god, the body of christ, the flock of the shepherd, the living stones of the temple and he’s, the foundation he’s, the cornerstone of the beautiful pictures, all connected.
The first century church, had four devotions. The first was to the apostles teaching. They had a shared faith. How about you? How about you? How about you? I want to pray for us i want to pray for each and every one of you that you would have first of all this confession i’m gonna give you the opportunity to do it right now right at your seat You can confess jesus i want to pray i’m gonna lead you in prayer it’s an example of how you could pray it but you could put in your own words or you can say it just like i’m saying what really matters is not so much the words is the attitude of your heart that you believe what you’re saying that you mean it so we will pray that in a secant then i’m going to pray for those of you that have already made that confession about your level of passion for gods word your level of unity are you serving? Are you committed? Are you holding back because you’ve got kind of a little bit of hate listen, a little bit of a rebellious streak in you you want to do things your way, you know, just just calling you out on it ask the lord right now you ready? Ready to pray let’s do it
lord i pray first of all for that person this morning that came in here struggling he came in here far from god as we invite everyone to come but we want you to be forever changed right now be forever changed by the love of jesus. How do you do that? The bible says, if you confess with your mouth that jesus is lord, so right there you are, dear father, i i say it right now. Jesus is my lord jesus, you are my lord, i’m putting you in charge of my life, and if you believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead, you’ll be saved. So say it. i believe in my heart, that you died for my sins, and then, on the third day, you came out of that tomb and you raised from the grave and you live today. I believe it. Yeah , now come into my life, forgive me of my sin, make me the person you want me to be. I want to be a child of god. Praying that prayer, believing right now, confessing. Jesus, he says. Welcome to the family. And then, having done that, would you confess where you’re at today? Some of you have already prayed that prayer christ is the lord of your life, but some things have happened. The word’s kind of dry to me, lord set my heart aflame afresh for your word, i want a passion for your word, lord, help me to get plugged back in. I’ve kind of backed off on my commitment to god’s people and therefore to you, well, i was offended here, i was hurt there, and i’ve held back. Put that stuff aside ask the lord to help you right now, lord, i recommit today to the calling you have on my life. I want passion for your wordi want to be involved in a small group we love you. Thank you for the way you’re speaking to us in jesus name, amen.