Evening Bible Study

Wednesday's 6:30pm

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(Evening Bible Study Lesson Below)

Who Are We?

Worthy Traits

 

If you asked a random selection of strangers in the street how might they finish this sentence? 

“The Church is…” 

How would you finish that sentence?       

Apart from the emotional value-judgments (great, exciting, a bit boring); how would you answer that sentence?

  • Formed and owned by God (not a human institution)
  • A Fellowship of believers (not a building)
  • A Group with a mission in the world: to worship and honor God by modeling grace teaching and reaching out with the gospel of Christ

 

Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV)

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 

43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 

45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church[a] daily those who were being saved.

 

  1. Pick out some of the key characteristics of the church that Jesus formed by His Holy Spirit in the first few months after Pentecost.

 

  • They were a devoted community (v.42) – They were committed to each other and willing to learn from the apostles’ teachings

A people who were devoted (v.42)

The early believers were devoted people who continued steadfastly in four things:

 1.In Doctrine

The teaching and the instruction of the Apostles.  The teachings included both what Christ taught (His Life) and His death, His resurrection, and His ascension (or exaltation) and also the fact that He’s coming back again.  That is the Gospel!

 2. In Fellowship

The fellowship wrought by the Spirit of God means more than the association existing in secular groups such as civic and communities clubs.  There is a vast difference between community participation and spiritual participation.  Community participation is based upon neighborly association.  Spiritual participation is based upon a spiritual union wrought by the Spirit of God.

 3.In The Lords Supper

The phrase “breaking of bread” means that the early believers observed and remembered the Lord’s death.  They set aside some time to observe what churches call communion, or the Lord’s Supper.  Just as the early believers did this so do we, the church, today remember and take part in the Lord’s Supper.

 

Why?

Because this is what Christ has given to symbolize His death so that we may never forget the awesome sacrifice of His life and the awesome price He paid for our sins.  And it was His death that saved us.

Because of His death we are now

  • Reconciled to God
  • In Fellowship with God
  • Made new creatures in God
  • Infilled with the Spirit of God
  • Bearing all the Fruit of the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:22-23) 

All that we now are and have is due to the death of Christ. 

4. In Prayer

The early believers were people who preserved in prayer.  There was a united prayer with the whole body of believers.  Through prayer they were brought into the most intimate fellowship and presence of God.  They could get no closer to God than when they were drawing nigh to God through prayer.

 

  • They were a loving community (v.44-45)

 

A people who were together-sharing in ministry (v.44-45) 

The early believers were a people who were together and who shared in ministry.

  • The professing believers were true believers. They were those who truly believed.  True belief is the commitment of all one is and has.
  • The believers were together. They were together in one place because they were all of the same call, mind, and purpose.  They would not have been together unless they had been of the same spirit and purpose.  (This is critical to God’s call)
  • The believers sold their goods and possessions and used the money to minister to the poor and needy.
    1. Why would they go to such drastic measures to minister?
      1. Because Christ commanded it!
      2. Because that’s what Christ did!

Christ commands that we give Him all that we are and all that we have.  This is the reason early believers gave what they had to meet the needs of the poor.  Christ demanded it of all people.  To follow Christ is to serve Him not only by the fruit of our lips (Through Praise) but also by the fruits of our labor (Through Practice).  We must, if we are truly the church, be prepared to minister to the needs of our neighbors!  Those who are our sisters and brothers in Christ.

To many times as Christians we are often so stuck on what we have that we never make room for anything else.  God wants to bless us but let’s face it, none of us have an unlimited amount of space.  Therefore, sometimes we have to willing to let go of what we have to make room for the increased blessings of God. 

There is a story that I am reminded of that tells of a little boy who was given the assignment of planting a seed.  His project was to then take it home with him so he could watch his plant develop and grow.  He placed it carefully on the windowsill in the kitchen and went to his room for the night and fell asleep.  The next morning the boy ran into the kitchen with great excitement only to stop suddenly at the windowsill with a curious frown on his face.  Very upset, he questioned his mother about the state of his plant and the fact that nothing appeared to be happening.  His mother carefully explained to him that seeds didn’t grow up and become plants overnight. 

It’s the same principle with sowing and reaping!  Reaping doesn’t occur immediately after sowing!  Reaping many times, doesn’t even occur a month after sowing.  Reaping occurs when the season is right!  However, in hast, many Christians exhibit this same type of mentality.  The one that calls for immediate actions.  But often times the season is not right for immediate action and results.  It is at those times that we must continue diligently in our faith and trust in God knowing that when it is time to harvest we will reap what we’ve sown.   

 

  • They were a worshiping community (v.46-47)

A people who were unified (v.46) 

People were unified and continued with one accord!

We see the importance of the principle of unity in every facet of our lives!  

For example:

If a football team is unified, it does not mean that everyone is playing the same position.  However, it does mean that everyone’s going to the same goal line! 

If an orchestra is being harmonious or playing in harmony, it’s not because they’re all playing the same instrument; it’s because they’re all playing the same song!  

If a choir is singing in great harmony it’s not because they are singing the same parts rather it is because they are adding their part to the same song. 

It is the goal that produces unity!  Unity is not sameness.  Unity has to do with the same purpose.  And as we look at the early church we see that they all came together with the same purpose, which was to give thanks to God and to the spread of the Gospel throughout all nations!

A people who worshiped and praised God daily (v.46-47)

They were a people who worshiped and praised God every day!

 

Note 5 things: 

They Worshiped

  1. The believers were worshiping in the temple, praying, and attending the regular hours of worship and prayers.
    1. Worshiping in the church is important

It Didn’t Stop in the Temple

  1. The believers were worshiping in their homes, moving from home to home. They were sharing together in fellowship meals and in observing the Lord’s Supper, remembering in their Lord’s death.
    1. When you understand that you are the church you take the church home with you.

How They Worshiped

  1. The believers were worshiping with gladness and singleness of heart. The word “singleness” here means sincere, without hardness.  Their hearts were soft and tender, easily touched and giving.  There was no selfishness or with holding on their part.  Where there was need they gave!

Their attitude was gladness, joy, and rejoicing.  They were more than glad to worship and minister as the Lord had instructed.

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) 

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Romans 15:6 (NKJV)

6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. The believers were Praising God.

There is a story, of which we have all heard before.  It tells of a man who was trying to get his horse to obey and to stop and start on command.  The man was a very religious man, so he came up with a couple of religious statements to use in training his horse.  He trained the horse to go on the command words, “Praise the Lord!”  And he trained the horse to stop on the command words, “Hallelujah!”

 

One day he was riding the horse and the horse took off.  He lost control of the horse and forgot his words.  The horse had been trained to only respond to those two key religious words the man had taught earlier.  Up ahead the man could see the cliff and the horse was headed there full speed.  The man frantically tried to think of every religious word he’d ever heard of.  “Amen!  Jesus Saves! Worthy! Holy!” but nothing worked!

Just as the horse approached the precipice, the man shouted out “Hallelujah!”  The horse stopped right on the edge.  The man wiped his head and said, “Whew, Praise the Lord!”  And of course you know what happen after that!

 

The reason I tell this story is because it illustrates a very important fact.  And that fact is that praising the Lord is not some kind of casual meaningless activity.  It is not just a bunch of meaningless words that accompany meaningless activities.  And it is not something that we should take for granted. 

Rather we must understand that there is Power in Praise.  Because it is during our times of worship and our times of praise that heaven comes down and sets among the believers; allowing us to experience a foretaste of what it will be like when we shall meet our Savior face to face.  Praise is that which takes us from a position and trial to a position of triumph!  It takes us from a position of tragedy to a position of tranquility!  

 

Because true victory is being able to Praise God when things don’t look good!  True victory is being able to Praise God even when you don’t feel good!  And true Praise is being thankful when the world says that you ought to be ungrateful!

Because our times of praise are times dedicated to God giving ourselves and rededicating ourselves back to Him to be used as HE sees fit. 

And the early church was full of believers who exercised that power.  And maybe the reason our church like the power to effectuate change in our communities is because we have lost our connection with the source of all power.

 

  1. The results were twofold: they gained favor with people and they gained favor with the Lord. And the Lorded added to the church daily!

If we want our church to grow, we first have to understand what it means to be the church.  After which we will find favor among our brothers and sisters in Christ but most important we will find favor with the Lord and He will provide the increase.

  

  • They were an evangelistic community (v.47)

 

  1. What would it have been like to be part of that first church? What would particularly attract you to join it? 

Most people will think it would have been extremely exciting – not just for the miraculous sings but for the “buzz” of excitement about being part of a growing, committed family.

 

Do you feel the same way about our church?  Why or Why Not? 

This is not a question designed to point fingers at any one person or groups of persons!  It’s about our individual and corporate devotion to the life and mission of the church, which will enable us to be the church that God has called us to be.

 

  1. What was the cause of the spectacular growth of this church family?

God’s blessing through the Holy Spirt as the gospel was preached.  But notice that a learning, worshiping devoted, loving group of disciples is extremely attractive.  The miraculous signs may have given authority to the message; but the message was endorsed and embodied by the changed lives of the believers.

 

  1. How did their life together support and complement the preaching of the good news about Jesus?

Their devotion to God and to one another made them an attractive community.  They modeled in their love and generosity God’s love and generosity, which is at the heart of the gospel.  They were a living illustration of the gospel message they were proclaiming.

 

 

 

Acts Chapter 4

Lessons for Christian Service

 

Acts chapter 4 opens up with Peter and John being arrested and tried.  In fact they were arrested as they spoke; while they were preaching.  Just prior to this there had been a crippled man who was placed at the temple gates each day to beg for food, money, and whatever else someone would be so kind to give him.  While Peter and John approached the temple this crippled man saw an opportunity to ask of them the same. 

The Bible says that Peter after being inquisitional by the cripple man responded and told him silver and gold have I none but such as I have I give unto the.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 

Peter then takes the crippled man by the hand and lifted him up and immediately the Bible says, his feet and ankle bones received strength.  This man who had been crippled from birth could now walk.  As a consequence of this great miracle in his life he begins to leap and praise God.  Suddenly all the people within eyesight of this man, knowing that this man had been crippled from birth, now see him walking and praising God.

 

As a result of this man’s transformation and thanksgiving the bible says in Acts 3:11 “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.”  They all came to see what was going on.

The transformation that took place in this man’s life and the thanksgiving that came forth because of it drew the people together.  Many of them probably strangers, not having anything in common other than the fact that they went to the temple for their times of prayer.  But once they witnessed the awesome power of Jesus the transform, change, and rearrange a man’s life – and once they heard the testimony and the praise that came forth from this man’s lips they came together and were drawn together. 

Church family it is important that we do not live out our transformation in secret!  It is important that we make known the awesome miracle working power of God in our lives!  So many times we hide what God has done for us and how God has changed and transformed us because we want people to think that we’ve always been this way.  We want people to think that we’ve always been this good, this smart, this popular, this well, and so on.

Many of us tend to hide what God has done for us because we want people to look at us from the position of our right now and not from the position of our back then.  But we fail to understand that if we hide our change, if we mask our transformation, what we are really doing is robbing God of the glory that He wants to get out of our lives. 

Think about it when was the last time you were able to witness to someone effectively without telling them about where you’ve been – what you’ve gone throw – what you’ve had to deal with – and what burdens you’ve had to bear?  When was the last time you were able to counsel and console someone effectively without sharing with them the testimony of your past and previous circumstances?

I would argue that it is impossible to be effective in witnessing for Christ without sharing what He has done for you and how He has come in and changed your life.  So our transformation ought to lead to some thanksgiving and those two things we ought to use each and every day to draw people together in order that they might hear a Word from the Lord.

And this is precisely what happens.  People began to gather together and Peter uses this as an opportunity to preach the gospel.  As Peter was preaching men came and arrested both Peter and John.  They were brought to court to stand trial for what had taken place in the cripple man’s life.  They asked by whose authority is this man healed?  Peter with boldness responds by the power and the authority of Jesus Christ.

After the chief priest and leaders had time to confer with one another they could not deny that a notable miracle had been performed in this man’s life.  But so that it would not spread any further they decide to threaten Peter and John never to preach or teach in the name of Jesus again or else risk losing their life.

 

Acts 4:18-31 (NKJV) 

18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 

19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 

21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 

22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

Prayer for Boldness

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 

24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 

25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?

26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 

28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 

29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,

30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

 

Church family this story is a perfect illustration for us to help us understand that witnessing is not often easy.  When we witness for Christ there will be some who applaud us and others who seek to break us down.  There will be those who are thankful to hear the Word of God and others who will feel threatened because of the Word of God.  But in the midst of these situations we must understand that our witness cannot and must not be down in our own strength.  

Rather we must pray to the Father to send the Holy Spirit to embolden us to continue to carry the gospel message so that He might receive all the glory and all the honor.

 

  1. When they are threatened, what do they do in response? Do you think this was easy for them?
  • They refused to stop, saying that they were simply unable to lie about what they had seen and heard (v. 20)

 

  • God is to be obeyed before men. The highest authority must always be obeyed.  It is the words of highest authority that we must carry out, this in fact is the basis of our laws.  Peter and John challenged the world saying “Ye Judge” (v.19) “if it is right in the sight of God for me to listen to you more than I listen to God!”  Christ had commanded them to preach, teach, and witness time and time again.  And they had to obey Him!  They could do no other, because the highest authority possible had spoken!  They were commissioned by God to speak and teach the resurrection, eve in the face of opposition and persecution! 
  • Church family we’ve got to be will to teach, preach, and witness even in the face of opposition and persecution! Not letting anything or anyone distract us and turn us away from what God has called us to do!
  • They shared it with the fellowship (v.23)

 

  • Peter and John were released; as soon as they were let go they sought the fellowship of their fellow believers, the church. They came to them and reported their experience
  • They were not depressed or discouraged.
  • They were not stricken with Fear.
  • They were not concerned with the world and what those who opposed the gospel of Jesus had to say.
  • Their focus was on the edification of the body of Christ, the believers, the church! They had now witnessed firsthand the type of opposition they would encounter and they knew that the only way they would be able to stand against this type of opposition and overcome this type of opposition was through prayer!

 So they:

  • They prayed together for God’s strength to continue (v. 24, 29-30)

We sometimes think that the first disciples “had it easy.”  Peter and John needed the support of their fellowship, and the strength that only the Holy Spirit could provide; in order to continue their outreach in the face of opposition.

 

  1. What can we learn from their prayer that would encourage us to be a fellowship devoted to outreach – even against strong opposition?
  • God is in control of everything (v.24)
    • We can trust Him even when things seem to go horribly “wrong.”
    • Peter and John were released!
    • Whenever the devil tries to hush you up God will always make a way and show up!
  • Jesus’ death is an example of God’s sovereign will to complete His work of salvation against opposition (v.27)
    • Even when the massive forces of military might and political power are against us, they will ultimately fail if we are being obedient to the call of the Lord.
  • They appeal for God to be at work, but at the same time they do not neglect to do the work of outreach. They still need “to continue to speak {God’s} word with all boldness” (v.29)
    • Many of us ask and pray to God for the Harvest but neglect to plant the seeds required to reap the harvest.
    • Many of us pray to God asking God to show up and show out but when it’s our time to show up were absent and unaccounted for.
  1. How is their prayer answered (v.31)

The house shakes and they are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Notice what being filled with the Spirit produces – they “continue to speak the word of God with boldness.”  Not a one –off event, but a continuing culture of whole-church outreach. 

 

“They were shaken so that they would be unshaken”