Saturday, November 8, 2008

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 33: Essential Characteristics

 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  Acts 2:42-43

 

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be a member of the first church?  According to Acts 2, sometimes in a single day, some three thousand people heard the gospel and were baptized.  This was the beginning of the mighty church of Jesus Christ that would turn the world upside down.

 

Maxie writes today about essential characteristics of the church.  To start with, a church must be able to learn.  “The early church was made up of people who had come to a sure knowledge of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection and had received the living presence of his Spirit.  Those first Christians were sure of who they were, because they were sure of Christ.”  They were willing and able to learn, to follow the doctrine of Christ.  Our faith must continually look forward and not remain static.  The riches of Christ grow going forward over time.

 

The next essential characteristic of the church is that it prays.  An Acts 2 church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The Pentecost church “had the vibrant, vital presence of the Holy Spirit, and it invested their prayers with even deeper meaning.”  Maxie is convinced that the church is not as effective today as it could be if we would spend more time on our knees.

 

The next essential characteristic of the church is that it shares.  The early church was a sharing church.  “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need “(Acts 2:44-45).  They were radical people…”  As we know, the system they put in place didn’t work, and they gave it up before the end of the 1st century.  It failed, not because it wasn’t God’s way – but because of sin. 

 

The next essential characteristic of the church is that it is a fellowship.  “Almost everything that happened in the early church took place either within the fellowship or grew out of the direction and power received from the fellowship.”   They gathered in homes, they broke bread, they shared about their lives and prayed together.  We know it is true today: small group interactions change lives and change the way a church functions.  “We all need a support system; without it, we can’t stay alive spiritually.”

 

The Heart of the Matter

-         When you hear stories about the couples who gave up the comforts of their suburban neighborhoods for the challenges of poverty-stricken communities, how does that make you feel?  Inspired? Challenged?  Uneasy?  Why do you think that is?

-         Where do you personally find fellowship in the body of Christ?

-         How is your congregation like/unlike the early church?

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