Prepare for Worship: Notes for services on January 18, 2015

The New Community

Corey Widmer on Acts 2:40-47

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The Story Continues, Week 3:     The New Community

Last week we explored how the arrival of the Holy Spirit fulfilled God's age-old promises: to restore his presence to his people and to unite the nations.  But what happened next was not the military or political victory for the nation of Israel that even some of Jesus' own disciples were hoping for; instead, the arrival of the Spirit created something more radical and, truth be told, messy. 

The immediate result of Pentecost was the formation of the church. “Church” in this case is not a building or an event, of course, but a radical new community with countercultural social arrangements: men and women, children and adults, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. Together they practiced radical generosity, exhibited profound concern for one another and for the poor, and were committed to prayer and worship.

What we see in the early Church is a glimpse of the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven.  Ultimately, we see that the purpose of the church is not to be a place to get help in your personal relationship with God but the expression of a new identity for all believers: it is a new community joining God in his mission to renew all things. 

This understanding of the work of the Spirit and the new identity each of us who believe in Jesus has as part of the church gives us some important things to consider, and some hard questions to ask: 

Is my Christian life primarily lived out an individual level or a communal level?

What kind of personal re-ordering of my life might I have to do to take Christian community this seriously?

What would it take for Third Church to become this kind of radical community?

 "We often surround ourselves with those we most want to live with, thus forming a club or clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community.”

Phillip Yancey

Acts 2:40-47

The Fellowship of the Believers

40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42And they devoted themselves to the apostles‘ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Why Study Acts Now?

Today, Third Church is entering into a completely new and exciting chapter of our long story, even as we are in continuity with all that has come before. We are in a new denomination, one that is eager to empower congregations for creative works of mission. We are in a metropolitan city that is growing and changing in dynamic ways, and one in which God is clearly at work to advance his Kingdom and to bring healing and reconciliation. We are in a cultural moment in which growing secularity is requiring the North American church to restore its original identity as a missionary community. Who knows what the next chapter will hold?

There is One who does. As we dream and envision what lies ahead together, we take our cues from the One who reigns and writes the story of history. We want to follow Him and His ways, not our own creative ideas.

For that reason we’ll be spending the first five weeks of the year studying some key passages together in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is not just an interesting narrative on the ancient church – it is our story, the story that we are a part of and that the Spirit of God continues to write for us today, both as a community and as individuals.  We listen deeply to the story of the church so we know how to live as faithful followers of Jesus in this new time and place. 

We'll have two special guests with us in worship and during our Sunday School hour this Sunday: Dr. Sasha Tsutserov of the Moscow Evangelical Christian Seminary in Russia, and Rev. Jill Carattini, writer and speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta.  Click HERE for more details on where and when  to hear from them.