When we live our lives listening to Jesus, and following his example, it creates an authentic and joyful community.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
One of the real highlights of being in the church family is time away on a camp or retreat. Over the years, I (Geoff) have had the pleasure of many weekends away with my Growth Group. These times usually involve looking at the bible and praying, heaps of chatting, sharing stories with each other about the highs and lows of life and our experience of God , good food, more chatting, more food, encouragement, music, fun, … you name it. And, as Maddie could tell you, being younger means that you get week-long versions of the same experience!
Why is it so good? Well, perhaps it’s a little glimpse of heaven, as we hang out with our brothers and sisters. But why is it so good to do it with our brothers and sisters in Christ, in particular? Maybe because it seems like an authentic response of living in response to Jesus – listening to him and living with his life, death and resurrection in mind. And that means listening to each other and pointing each other to him.
In the passage, Luke paints a really beautiful picture of the early church, and one that we should be looking to today. He speaks about the members devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching (v42a), which in those days would have been all they had, for the gospels were yet to be written. Instead of rocking up to Church because they felt it was necessary, or they felt guilty if they didn’t, they fully submerged themselves in the gospel and devoted time and energy into the praise and worship of God and the growth of their faith.
But they didn’t plan to walk this difficult road of faith alone. No, they also devoted themselves to fellowship and the creation of a family in God’s church. Being a part of a bigger body of people is something really special about being a Christian. Being able to share ups and downs and learning and growing together all aids in the nurturing of a healthy faith. We know that being a follower of Jesus isn’t confined to the four walls of a church. And cultivating a healthy relationship with Jesus in our everyday lives is tricky. It’s convenient how God made sure we’re not alone out there! As a church family we are blessed with growth groups and friendships that allow us to share life with each other. These early church-goers kept each other accountable, laughed together and prayed together, just like we do today.
Luke also draws attention to the willingness and excitement of these early meetings in verse 46: “they continued to meet together…with glad and sincere hearts.” The people gathered together with willingness, with joy and love! Back then it wasn’t normal to attend church, and in some places it wasn’t going to be safe. So why did they join together with such enthusiasm, while we, safe and secure in this country, do not? Let’s think about the love and joy that these people came together with, leading the way for others to come to Jesus.
Head: How can we take the “weekend away” experience and translate it to our weekly lives, so that authentic Christian community is the norm and not the exception?
Heart: Does the description of Jesus’ followers relationships in this passage challenge your need for independence, control or power?
Hands: What is something specific you can do this week, as a small first step towards building or growing this kind of community in your immediate circles?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, We thank you for giving us our church family to grow and worship with. Help us to come to your church with glad and sincere hearts, and to cultivate fellowship and faith all in the name of you. Amen
A song to listen to: Never Alone
Maddie Pryde and Geoff Pryde- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina