The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church – Part 3

What is the Unified Devotion of the Church?

In Acts 2, after Peter’s Spirit-empowered preaching at Pentecost, a multitude of people began to follow Jesus as His disciples. We are told in verse 41 that:

“…there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41b)

We know from earlier in the chapter that those who heard Peter’s sermon were “from every nation under heaven” — verse 8. So a number of the people who began to follow Jesus that day were from foreign countries. I assume that many of them carried the good news of Jesus back to their hometowns and made disciples there. But many stayed in Jerusalem and joined the other disciples. We are told starting in verse 42 what their day to day activity looked like.

The text says,

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Ac 2:42)

These were the things they were devoted to and unified around. Let’s look at these one at a time.

They were devoted to and unified around learning more about Jesus and how He would have us to live.

Each day they would be taught by the apostles more about God, Jesus, and how they were to live. That wasn’t just an early church practice. We should be unified around the idea of learning more about God, Jesus, and how we are to live as well.

You see, being a member of a church shouldn’t be like being a member of a Country Club. We shouldn’t join for status, connections, or for what we can get out of it. Instead, we join and come to church to help one another become better disciples of Jesus. That should be our focus as a church — to learn how we can better follow Jesus and help others to do the same.

They were devoted to and unified around fellowshipping with one another

As well as we should be unified around fellowshipping with one another. This means that we should be close. We should know what is going on in each other’s lives. How we can encourage and be in prayer for one another.

Even if that is occurring in the community to which you belong, there’s always room for improvement. One way to actively improve fellowship in your Christian community is to pick someone out, it could be anyone — someone you know well or someone you don’t know well, but pick someone out, and invite them to do something with you. Maybe that involves grabbing a coffee or having them over for lunch or dinner one day. When you are gathered together, make it a point to ask them how you can pray for or encourage them.

Now, I know that sounds a little uncomfortable, but if we truly want to experience the level of fellowship Luke is writing about in the book of Acts, that’s something we need to start doing regularly. The easiest way to start is to just do it. So take some time this week to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to fellowship with others in your congregation, and then invite them to hang out.

They were devoted to and unified around breaking Bread Together

Next, we see that along with focusing on learning what it means to be a disciple and fellowshipping with one another, the early church was also unified around breaking bread together. What this means is that they participated in the Lord’s Supper with one another regularly. The reason they did that, and the reason we should do that, is to constantly remind ourselves of Jesus’ work on our behalf.

When we keep what Jesus has done in front of us, it’s hard to keep sinning against one another and God. That’s because when we are thankful for what God has done for us by sending His son to die on our behalf, we should want to please Him. Not to earn or keep our salvation, but simply as a way to worship Him. So by regularly observing the Lord’s Supper, we should be driven to obedience and unity with one another.

They were devoted to and unified around praying for one another

Lastly, we learn that prayer for one another unified the early church. That’s what we should be doing as well, we should be praying for one another. Not just for each other’s physical ailments, but for one another’s spiritual life. That means we have to be willing to ask others how they are doing spiritually, as well as we have to be willing to tell others how we are doing spiritually. It’s a two-way street and we have to be willing to drive down both sides.

Telling others how you are doing spiritually doesn’t necessarily mean that you are always telling them what’s wrong. While that is not a bad idea. Telling others how you are doing spiritually might also mean that you share with them how God is working in your life for good. By willing to do both, you’re not only setting yourself up to receive encouragement, guidance, and prayer, but you will also be a catalyst to worship, as others are driven to praise God for what He is doing in your life. Either way, we are bringing glory to God, and glorifying God is what our life should be about.

What are the Benefits?

So these are the things we should be devoted to and unified around as a church. Honestly, when we are unified around these things, fights and disagreements will be at a minimum. When they do occur, we will seek reconciliation quickly.

As well as, when we are unified around these things, we will always be on the lookout for one another’s spiritual health. When we see others slipping, we will be in a place where we can pray for and admonish them. Or when we see others doing well, we will be in a place where we can encourage them to keep on keeping on.

Moreover, being unified around these ideas will allow us to be better witnesses to the world because we will come across as a unified and loving family that others will want to be a part of.

Conclusion

But again, we don’t do these things in our own strength, nor do we accomplish our mission in our own strength. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be devoted to these things and to make disciples. Which means, when we see ourselves or others slipping, we shouldn’t just encourage them or ourselves to try harder. Instead, we should pray that the Spirit would work in our lives, empowering us to keep pressing on as Jesus’ disciple.

So let me encourage you to be faithful to your Spirit-empowered mission — to make disciples and to be devoted to the teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are the above a point of unity for your congregation?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church

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The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church – Part 2

What is it that Empowers Believers?

After Jesus’ resurrection and before His ascension, He stayed with the disciples for 40 days comforting and teaching them more about the kingdom of God. Starting in verse 4 of Acts chapter 1 we read,

“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”” (Ac 1:4–5)

And a little bit later in verse 8, Jesus tells them the benefit of the Holy Spirit when He says,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” (Ac 1:8)

So we see, then, that

We are empowered for our mission by the Holy Spirit.

He is the reason we are able to make disciples, boldly proclaim the gospel to others, answer their objections, and convince them that following Jesus is what’s best. He’s the reason we are able to write books, preach sermons, and teach Bible studies. He’s the reason we are able to learn foreign languages, culture, and practices, and leave a comfortable life to live as missionaries in an uncomfortable or dangerous environment. He’s the reason we are able to do what we have and will do for the kingdom.

Making disciples, then, isn’t something we do in our own strength, rather it’s something we are empowered to do by God Himself. He calls us to the task, and He empowers us to complete the task.

Seek His Power

If that’s true. If the Holy Spirit is the One who empowers us for the task of making disciples, then we need to make sure that we are depending on Him and seeking His power to accomplish our mission. The way we do that is by praying for Him to empower us on a daily basis. You see, prayer is powerful. It accomplishes a number of things, including us being empowered for the task of making disciples.

Looking Forward

But the Spirit doesn’t just empower us to accomplish our unified mission, He also empowers us to accomplish our unified devotion, and that’s what we will talk about next time.

 

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see that the Spirit is the one who empowers for ministry?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church

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The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church – Part 1

Growing up I played a lot of team sports. Mainly, I played baseball and soccer. On most of the teams I played, there was a fair amount of camaraderie and unity. I’m sure if you’ve ever played team sports, you have felt that as well.

The cause of that camaraderie and unity comes from a singular mission and devotion. You are all in it together. You are all working towards the same goals — to win the championship and to become the best athlete you can be. Those goals bring a team together. I’ve experienced that, and I’m sure you have experienced that as well.

But for all the camaraderie and unity I have experienced as a part of a team, nothing brings us together like Jesus. When we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become the people of God. He is our Father and we are His children, which makes us all brothers and sisters in the Lord. It makes us all a family. If you think about it, that is amazing in and of itself because the people of God, the church, is comprised of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. We are a diverse yet unified group.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that unity when I meet another Christian. It doesn’t matter where I’m at. I could be half-way across the world or down at the local Starbucks. When I meet a fellow believer, there is an instant connection and bond that’s formed. I immediately feel comfortable and connected with them. The reason we feel that connection is not only because we are brothers and sisters in the Lord, but because we share a common mission and devotion.

What’s the unified mission and devotion of the church?

Over the next several posts, I’m going to answer that question, as well as I’m going to look at what empowers our mission and devotion.

What is the Unified Mission of the Church? (vs. Matt 28:18-20)

In Matthew 28 Jesus gives our mission. In verse 19 He says,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28:19a)

Our mission, then, as believers are to “make disciples”. That’s what we are to do.

What’s a disciple?

A disciple is someone who follows a specific teacher or leader. When Jesus tells us that we are to “make disciples”, what He means is that we are to cause others to follow Him.

The way we make disciples is by telling them the good news about Jesus so that they would want to follow Him too. You see, we aren’t in the business of forcing anyone to follow Jesus. Instead, we are to convince others that following Jesus is what’s best.

Following Jesus is what’s best for us. 

Jesus has saved us from the Father’s punishment by taking our punishment for us. That’s necessary because we are sinners, who live in rebellion to God. We rebel against God and sin when we forsake His commandments and way of doing things for our way. As rebels, we deserve God’s punishment, which involves the Father’s wrath being poured out on us for an eternity in Hell.

The good news, however, is that we don’t have to experience Hell, nor do we have to live at odds with God now. We can experience eternal life and a relationship with the Father now that involves His blessing, protection, and Fatherly care. As well as we can experience freedom from the bondage, the stranglehold, that sin has on our lives. The best part is that we don’t have to pay or work for these benefits. They are freely given by God. All we have to do is humble ourselves, which we do by believing that it’s Jesus work that provides eternal life, a restored relationship, and freedom from sin’s bondage. Specifically, His work on the cross, where our sins were placed on Him and He was punished in our place. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus, the Son of God, God incarnate, the perfect God-man, who deserved no punishment because He never once rebelled against His Father, was punished in our place so that we can experience the benefits of the gospel!

When we realize and experience what Jesus has done for us, we should want to tell others the good news so that can experience what we have and are experiencing. Freedom from sin, hope in the future, joy in a restored relationship, Fatherly care and blessing, true love.

Not only should we want to tell others the good news, but that’s the mission Jesus has given us. He tells us that we are to be disciples who make disciples.

We make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. 

Going
The first of those is “going”. Again, in the beginning of verse 19, Jesus says:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28:19a)

Going tells us that we aren’t to sit stagnantly. We aren’t to just let folks come to us. Instead, we are to go and find folks to tell the good news.

When Jesus tells us to go, He doesn’t just mean for us to go on a mission trip, or go and be a missionary in another country. Those things are necessary and we should do them, but that’s not all that Jesus means when He tells us to go.

Instead, He has in mind that we are making disciples as we are going about our day. So whether we are living in Africa, China, or Decatur, we are to make disciples as we are going about our day.

Baptizing

Along with going, we are also to baptize those who believe the gospel. That’s what Jesus tells us in the remainder of verse 19 when He says,

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19a)

Now, you have to know that Jesus doesn’t tell us to baptize others because baptism saves. Instead, He tells us to baptize because Baptism shows a person’s commitment to follow Him. In other words, it’s a way of telling the watching world that we are aligning ourselves with Jesus as His follower. That’s why baptism is done publicly instead of privately.

Teaching

Along with going and baptizing, we are also to teach those who believe the gospel to obey all God has commanded in His Word. Look at the beginning of verse 20. There Jesus says that we are to:

“[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you.”” (Mt 28:20a)

This command isn’t just for Pastors. It’s for everyone. We are all commanded to teach others how to follow Jesus. That tells us, then, that making disciples isn’t just about leading someone to make a profession of faith. Making disciples involves much more. It involves us teaching others what it means and how to follow Jesus.

Before you start to rethink my earlier comment that this isn’t just a command for pastors, know that you can teach in many different ways.

  • You may teach in a formal setting like a church service, Bible study, or Sunday School class.
  • Or you might teach your family through conversation at the dinner table or a regular family devotion.
  • You might also teach others at the church by joining the discussion during Sunday School or Bible study.
  • Or you might get together with another church member for lunch or coffee and talk about what God is doing in your life.

There are a number of different ways you can teach others, which means it’s possible for all of us to be teachers. In some sense that’s encouraging, but in another sense that’s scary because it means that we are all either teaching others how to be or how not to be disciples of Jesus.

So that’s our unified mission and how we can accomplish it.

Looking Forward

But you know, we don’t accomplish that mission in our own power. Instead, we receive a power outside ourselves that help us make disciples. We will talk about what empowers us as believers next time.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you a disciple who makes disciples?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church

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