PENTECOST AND BEYOND Reading: Acts 2: 1-4, 42-3 (NLT)
On the day of Pentecost, the believers were meeting together in one place.2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
What hobbies, activities, people or good causes receive your attention & support? And which of them receives your devotion?
As a little boy, I was devoted to train spotting!
- As a teenager, I was devoted to following my local football team and being part of a ‘pop group’
- Schoolwork came near the bottom of the list!
Acts 2 is largely concerned with the coming of the Holy Spirit in power… Peter’s sermon and the conversion of thousands of people
But Pentecost was not an end in itself…but rather the beginning of something that would create the New Testament Church and transform the lives of countless millions
A lady I knew well died just a few years ago, aged 96. She had served continuously in the Sunday School, Christian Endeavour, youth work and young people’s camps since 1939!
- Now that’s devotion! But devotion to what or to whom?
The devotion of which we read in Acts 2 wasn’t merely devotion to serve by doing but devotion to the One for whom they’re done!
- It’s possible to become so immersed in our activities that we forget that we do everything “unto Him” and for His glory
Our devotion must be first and foremost to the Lord of the work… and not primarily to the work of the Lord…though the work of the Lord is essential, of course, and we all have a part to play in the endeavour
In verse 42 of the chapter, we see that the early Christians
‘devoted’ themselves to four things:
- The Apostles’ teaching
- The fellowship of believers
- Breaking of bread
Although there are four “devotions” I’ll only deal with the first two
Devotion to the Apostles’ teaching
It’s first in the list and for a very good reason… once we stop learning, we stop growing. Once we stop growing, we shrink!
In the Christian life, we go forward or backwards, there’s no ‘treading water’ and standing still
How important to ‘feed’ on God’s word… not nibble or snack… but take and eat… taste and see that the Lord is good
- Ezekiel was told to eat a scroll containing God’s word… Ugh!
- But when he did so, it tasted sweet
And in much the same way, we have to discipline ourselves to read the Bible… carefully, prayerfully and with high expectation
- And as we do so, we discover that the effort is worthwhile… it is sweet to our taste
- We find treasures… precious truths, as well as challenges, that we’ve never ‘seen’ before
We are encouraged to “set our minds on things above, not earthly things” (Colossians 3: 2)…
- In other words, to be steadfast in seeking the will of God, not swayed by human philosophy or clever arguments that are contrary to the word of God
- Paul writes: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2)
- Note that every thought, idea or decision begins in the mind, which is inclined to be sinful… so we must renew our minds so that “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2: 16)
According to surveys, the habit of personal Bible study and waiting on God (the ‘quiet time’) is in decline, even among pastors and preachers!
- It is being replaced by sermons on the Internet, CDs, God TV…
- A ‘second hand’ experience… filtered through other people’s experiences of God and not hearing from God directly
Christians in some churches are accused of being anti-intellectual… of being too simplistic… of quoting Scripture out of context… of refusing to take account of scholarship…
How true is this?
- On the one hand, we don’t want to become obsessed with human knowledge such that we block out godly wisdom and understanding that only comes from the Holy Spirit
- On the other hand, we need to study the Scriptures closely and carefully…and be willing to adjust our thinking and beliefs on the basis of what the Bible says, not what we think it says or wish it said!
To guard against false teaching from outside the church and heresy from within it, we must build up ourselves and encourage one another in our most holy faith by devoting ourselves first and foremost to the Apostles’ teaching
Devotion to the fellowship
Fellowship is a hot topic in recent years because, unlike the ‘old days’, people are frequently changing their church allegiance…
- Sometimes because of a dispute, a ‘falling out’ or an incident
- Sometimes because the ministry is unsatisfactory
- Sometimes because the ministry is too challenging!
- Sometimes because a family is the only one with children
- Sometimes due to boredom… or lack of a particular age group… or lack of potential life partners… and so forth
But what do you understand by the idea of ‘fellowship’?
- A group of people who attend the same church/house group?
- A positive feeling between you and other people?
- Your relationships with believers who think like you think and believe precisely the same as you do?
- The time following the formal service to chat with your friends?
- Your relationship with other believers outside the church?
Perhaps some or all of these elements are relevant!
Romans 15: 5-7 gives us clear guidance on the matter…
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
- Note that true fellowship requires ‘endurance’ and ‘encouragement’
- It requires ‘one mind and one voice’ to glorify God
- It requires ‘acceptance’ of one another to bring praise to God
So here we have the key features of fellowship… endurance (perseverance), encouragement, one mind, one voice and acceptance of one another…. For God’s praise & glory
Jesus was clear about how the world would know that we are His disciples… by our love for one another… which is not always easy!
Devotion to a fellowship (noun) might be translated ‘devotion to fellowship’ (verb)… “fellowshipping”
- Not only loyalty to a specific church … but a desire to promote fellowship with all believers through sacrificial love
- It’s an attitude of mind that we do everything possible to encourage one another, discuss and share ideas, unite in praise and worship and accept one another’s shortcomings… just as God accepts yours and mine!
Does that mean that we should never express doubts or offer our opinions for fear of creating disunity?
- On the contrary, it’s important to share our ideas but to do so sensitively and with God’s glory as our aim, not our own!
- There is no room in the church of Jesus Christ for pride, smugness or rejecting those who have different opinions (e.g. about style of music)
- As someone has said: “If we must disagree, let’s not disagree disagreeably!”
However, with the best will in the world, if it seems right to move on and find another church…
- This should only happen when we have done all we can do to ‘make things work’ in our present fellowship… or when we have been called by God to a new sphere of work
I have known people to ‘cut and run’ from a church, which is not only painful for those who remain but also dishonouring to God
- Let’s ensure that descriptions such as church-hoppers, spiritual gypsies or Consumer Christians never apply to any of us
Perhaps we can all try harder to be led by the Spirit in our relationship with others; and thereby bring honour to the Lord
In summary, we need to be DEVOTED to four things…
The Apostle’s teaching
Breaking of Bread (Communion)
We are faced with a question: Are you and I willing to turn our attention away from other things and spend quality time & energy pursuing God’s agenda and not our own? That’s a question that only you and I can and must answer for ourselves!