Over the next 5 weeks we will be setting the tone for Refuge City Church in 2016 and many years to come. It will be setting the tone for many years to come because we will be looking at FIVE key identities that Jesus has that every healthy Christian should have. It will be setting the tone for 2016, because of these FIVE identities ONE of them affects all the others. That ONE is WORSHIP! All the others FLOW from that ONE.
Essentially what we will be doing is setting the THEOLOGICAL VISION for Refuge for many years to come. We are rolling out new documents, new design, videos, content on our website, and even T-Shirts to reinforce these values. My prayer is this will help clarify some vision for our church, both corporately and individually. It will also help guide us in our evangelistic and discipleship efforts. How will we accomplish this? What will be our Biblical justification for this “theological vision”? We are going to look at the values of the FIRST church in Acts 2.42-47. But we will reinforce these through looking at how they flow from the core values of our Savior Jesus Christ. This theological vision is basic movement is The True Church, Christ, Creating The New Church, Us. So here is the BIG idea I want us to leave with today...
Lets do something we have not done in a while at Refuge, and let’s stand to READ Acts 2.42-47 to show reference to the fact we are about to hear from he God of the universe. In order to get the context of Acts 2 we are going to need to understand some background. The first being...
1. Israel was formed to help the whole world experience the glory of God.
John Piper tells in Let the Nations Be Glad, “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” Worship is CENTRAL to Mission of God, therefore, it is central to our Mission. Worship is the central problem of the human condition. We worship everything but God! Romans 1 tells us:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him...and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man...—Romans 1.21, 23
We are told very early the Biblical Story that our first parents chose to glorify themselves instead of God. All of humanity has been living in this cycle since then. The OT tells us that God chose Israel to display His glory to the whole earth. Through them all the families of the earth are supposed to blessed. Israel constantly rejects God despite all He does for them. Like any loving parent, there are times when God has to let them live with their BAD choices, and then they end up in TERRIBLE circumstances.
God always ends up rescuing the Israelites, not because they are better than any of the other nations, but so they would bring glory to His name. Despite all His efforts to win their hearts they always run to other lovers. God knew it would take something radical to change their hearts. Jeremiah 31 tells us:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel...I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me,”—Jeremiah 31.31-34a
So when Jesus enters the Story in the Gospels we know it is because God wants to win the hearts and affections of His people. This leads us to background number 2...
2. Jesus was sent into the world to finally win the hearts of Gods people.
This is called ADVENT because God Himself enters the Story. It is the first time since the Garden that God has come to live among humanity. According to Philippians 2, the difference is He comes in the form of a servant—taking on the form of humanity. Jesus Christ was FULLY GOD and FULLY MAN. Jesus purposefully LIMITS Himself for us. These limitations cause Him to live a life of suffering. Far to many of use think of Jesus suffering at the Cross, but not His whole life. Isaiah 53 tells us He was a “man of sorrows”. I know this will be a difficult exercise, but imagine you have never been hungry or thirsty. Imagine you have never been tired. Imagine you have never had any basic human need. This is what Christ decided to experience for us. The writer of Hebrews says this:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4.15-16
Christ was tempted in EVERY way and yet did NOT sin. He was tempted in EVERY way! Have you every had to really struggle with a temptation that felt like it would never go away? Every time it comes back it seems like it is getting stronger. That was Christ’s whole life on earth friends. The Cross, was just the HEIGHT of His suffering. Therefore, when the writer of Hebrews tells us we have a God who can sympathize with our weakness that is what he was thinking about.
3. The Church is formed to be a city of worshippers.
What can we immediately tell from these glorious acts about worship? Worshipping in this broken world is a call to come SUFFER with Christ. When we look back at that passage in Hebrews 4 it mentioned us coming to the throne of grace with confidence. When does it encourage us to do that? In our TIME OF NEED—SUFFERING. At the Cross(Jesus’ greatest time of need), Jesus was denied fellowship with God, so that we would not be denied fellowship with God in our time of need. There is language in Hebrews, Romans, and across the NT talking about Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father. What is He doing there? He is pleading to the Father, “I have been there. I have walked in their shoes, PLEASE show them mercy.”
How many of use have taken the time to cry out to God this week in our times of need? Did you just catch what I mentioned there? We talked about this a few weeks ago. Worship and prayer are connected! Worship is a consistent declaration that we NEED God, and what do you think prayer is?
You will not prepare your heart for regular worship unless you are regularly praying. Some of you may be asking yourself, “Why I am not experiencing the presence of God more in my life?” I would ask you, “How often do you pray?” Any good relationship has open communication.
I know we do not have a ton of people in this church today, but even in a room this size, some you don’t even think of yourselves as needy. But if we all truly hold the mirror of God’s Word to our faces we would see how in desperate need we are. I mean, can anyone here today say that have LOVED God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? Have we even done that for one minute this week? I know I haven’t! Would we plead ALL night just to taste a glimpse of the fullness of God’s Spirit?
All of this is the backdrop to what is happening in Acts 2.42-47. After Jesus goes to sit down at the RIGHT HAND of the Father the Spirit of God comes and changes the hearts of OVER 3000 people in ONE DAY! What we read about in Jeremiah 31 has come. It is no longer, “Behold the days are coming”, but “Behold the days are HERE!”
Our passage in Acts says they began doing several things after the Spirit comes. But the one we have been focusing is WORSHIP. Verse 42 says they DEVOTED themselves to “PRAYER”. Even though these people have just watched the Spirit come in POWER they do not stop devoting themselves to prayer. It says in verse 43, “AWE came upon EVERY soul”. Finally look with me at verses 46-47 [READ]. What are they doing “DAY BY DAY”? They are GATHERING corporately in the temple for WORSHIP, and then they are SCATTERING in homes for WORSHIP. In the rest of this series we will explore the details of these rhythms, but we are told in verse 47 that in doing these TWO basic RHYTHMS they were “PRAISING GOD”, and the LORD was adding “to their number DAY BY DAY”. There far to many Christians today who see the value in ONE of these rhythms but not BOTH of them. This rhythm is ALL throughout the early church, and I believe is supposed to be this way today. A healthy WORSHIPPING community will be doing some form of these rhythms.
As I mentioned at the beginning there are FIVE identities here, but they all flow from WORSHIP. Let me demonstrate to you how. The early church are generous SERVANTS, because they are worshipping the generous service of Christ. They are LEARNERS, because they worship a Great High Priest who learned what it was like to live like us. They are FAMILY, because they were all bought by the same flesh and blood of Christ. They are MISSIONARIES, because God carried out His Mission through His Son, Jesus Christ. God kept His promises and will continue to keep His promises.
As we leave this week, which of these identities are you struggling with the most? Embrace one this week as your ACT of worship. If you struggle with being a generous SERVANT, then choose someone you know is needy and go serve them this week. If you struggle with LEARNING, then spend some time reading a book about your faith. If struggle with seeing the Church as your true FAMILY, then spend some time getting to know some of your families members in the faith you do not know well. If you struggle with being a MISSIONARY, then let this be the week you worship through faithfully sharing your faith with someone you have been wanting to for quite some time.