Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

09/24/2017 A.M.

Becoming The True Church of God

Acts 2.42-47

 

There was an old monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Centuries earlier... It had been a thriving community of faith where dedicated monks lived and worked… And had a great influence on the entire country-side.

 

But now only five monks lived there... And they were all over seventy years old. Everybody could see... This was a dying order.

 

A few miles from the monastery lived an old hermit who many thought was a prophet of God.

 

One day... As the monks agonized over the impending demise of their order... They decided to visit the hermit to... See if he could help them with some advice. Perhaps he could tell them what they needed to do to save the monastery.

 

The hermit welcomed the five monks to his humble home... But when they explained the purpose of their visit... The hermit could only sympathize with them.

 

Yes... I understand your predicament... The spirit seems to have departed... Hardly anyone cares for spiritual things anymore.

 

Is there anything you can tell us... That would help us save the monastery?

 

No... I’m sorry... I don’t’ know how your monastery can be saved... But I can tell you this... One of you will become a mighty man of God... A special disciple in God’s Kingdom… EQUAL to an Apostle!

 

For months after their visit... The monks each pondered the significance of the hermit’s words... One of us being a mighty man of God?… Equal to an apostle?...

• Did he actually mean one of us... That seems improbable.

• We are all too old... Too insignificant.

• On the other hand...What if it’s true?... And if so... Which one of us would it be?

• Do you suppose he meant the Abbot?... Probably so... The Abbot has been our leader for more than a generation.

• On the other hand he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man... A man of the Book... A man of wisdom. But he is prone to depression. 

• He could have meant Brother Eldred. But Eldred gets grouchy at times... Becomes difficult to reason with... Even displays a temper... On the other hand he is almost always right in his conclusions. Maybe the hermit meant Brother Eldred.

• He surely couldn’t have meant Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive... So shy... A real nobody. Still...He’s always there when you need him... He’s loyal and trustworthy. Yes... He could’ve meant Phillip.

• Of course I know the hermit wasn’t talking about me... I’m just an ordinary person. Yet... Suppose he did?... Suppose I’m to become... a great man of God? Equal to an Apostle? Oh, God... Could I mean that much to You?

 

As they contemplated this matter... Something strange begAn to happen... The old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one of them might actually be God’s special man... Equal to an Apostle... And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the one... Each monk began to see his relationship with God and others differently.

 

Since the monastery was visited by most people of the country-side... They noted something special happening there. There was aura of... Love...Appreciation... Respect... And Grace... surrounding the five old monks... And it seemed to radiate out of them... Permeating the atmosphere of the monastery.

 

There was something strangely attractive... Compelling even!

 

Hardly knowing why... People began coming back to the monastery more frequently for Prayer... Worship... and Meditation. They began to bring their friends to show them this special unique place. And their friends brought their friends. As more and more visitors came... Some of the younger men started to talk with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join their order. Then another and another. Within a few years the monastery had again become a thriving order... All thanks to the hermit’s gift.

 

I believe this story illustrates how powerful the fellowship between Christians can be... Should be!

 

I also believe there is a Biblical narrative that parallels this story... It’s found in Acts chapter two... Access a Worship Bulletin... And let’s read our text together... Beginning with the verse numbered 41... Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 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. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Peter had preached the first Gospel Sermon following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension... Three thousand responded... In Acts chapter four... This number grew to about 5000... Acts 5.15 & 6.1 speaks of these numbers increasing... Even multiplying.

 

I believe the first five chapters of Acts pictures the church in the mind of God... The church as God intended it to be before any problems arose… Similar to Adam & Eve in the Garden.

Well... What made this church so special?

What qualities did they have that we should cultivate in order for us to become

great men and women of God?

 

First... We must cultivate Biblical fellowship.

They continued steadfast in the Apostles’ Doctrine and in Fellowship.

 

• Biblical fellowship means WE SHARE SOMETHING WITH ANOTHER... If you’re without something that you really need... And I share mine with you... We have FELLOWSHIP.

 

• The term also means that we SHARE IN SOMETHING. If some of us are going through an emotional experience... A pain... A problem...A loss... A joy... A celebration... And another joins with us in that experience... Participates in our... Pain... Joy... Loss... Celebration... Then by definition we have had fellowship with one another… This  fellowship allows us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.

 

• Fellowship is a PARTICIPATION… IN AN EFFORT... IN A WORK... IN A PURPOSE… If I have work to do...  A purpose to accomplish... And you come alongside me and assist me in that by adding your...Talents... Abilities... Gifts... We have jointly participated in fellowship.

 

• Fellowship is BELONGING to one another... Romans 12.4 & 5 says... Just as each of us has one body with many members...And these members do not all have the same function... So in Christ we who are MANY form one body...LISTEN NOW… AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS!!

 

Jesus commanded us to embrace such a fellowship when He said... A new command I give you... Love one another IN THE SAME WAY that I have loved you… By this all men will know that you are My disciples.

 

Here it is church... Can the people of Bentonville... Bella Vista... Rogers... Centerton... Southwest Missouri see that we are about... FELLOWSHIP... ONE ANOTHERNESS?...

 

• Can they sense that we love one another…

• Honor one another...

• Care for one another…

• Do they see us bearing one another’s burdens…

• Submitting… Serving… And being subject… To one another…

• Encouraging and edifying one another…

Can they see that we are kind and tender hearted to one another...

• At peace with one another…

• Forgiving one another...

• Serving one another...

• Can people tell that we are placing the interest of others before our own?...

• That we never grow weary of doing good things for others?

 

Not only are we to cultivate Biblical Fellowship...We are to place an emphasis on SPIRITUAL Growth.

Verse 42 says those of the early church... Devoted themselves to the Apostles’ Teaching… To the breaking of bread... And prayer.

 

Hebrews 5.11-6.3 tells us that it’s God’s will we should leave the elementary truths of God’s Word and go on to solid food so that we may distinguish good from evil... Let us go on to maturity.

 

Ephesians 4.14-16 says... That we become mature in our knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God... That we no longer be infants tossed back and forth by waves and blown here and there by every doctrine... Instead... Speaking the truth in love... We will in all things GROW up into Him who is the Head... that is... Christ. For in Him the whole body is joined and held together... It GROWS and builds itself up in love... as each part...Each member... does their work.

 

These verses tell us...

 

• The church is a place of growth... Not just growth by addition but also by nutrition.

 

• We don’t just lead people to Christ… We help them to grow and mature into Christ-likeness.

 

• The church is both evangelistic and educational.

 

• both an obstetrician and pediatrician.

 

You gotta love the last half of Hebrews 10.25... Let us think of one another and how we can stimulate one another’s growth in loving and doing good deeds… And so much more as the day is approaching.

 

Do you believe that God is calling you and your preacher...

          • To a greater faith?...

          • To a deeper commitment?...

          • To a greater reverence in worship?...

          • Calling us to put... Greater fidelity... Greater Loyalty... Into our faith?

 

Regardless of who we are... We must never be satisfied with where we are spiritually!... With no plans for future growth!... Are we satisfied with...

          • Our prayer life...

          • Our giving...

          • Bible study...

          • Our daily... Worship... Praise... And Service... To God?... I hope not!

 

Thirdly... God’s Church is to be a place of Joy and GLADNESS.

Do you see that in verse 46?... They had glad and sincere hearts.

 

They were people of Joy... And why not?... Their sins had been forgiven... They had received the Presence of God in their life... Their hearts were pure and single minded.

 

Listen... If the church... This church... Is actually the family of God...

 

• It will be a place of Pure hearted Gladness... Laughter... A place of joy... Where people like to go... something people want to be a part of.

 

• It will be a place where people say... I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.

 

This was obviously the way it was in the early church because...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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

The early church teaches us that joy and gladness make us stand out as salt and light in a dark depressing world.

 

Number four... We are to become a people rooted in Unity.

When Jesus knew He was leaving this world... He prayed one final time for His followers. John 17 records this prayer... A prayer for the church... This church... A prayer for us!

 

He didn’t pray for our... Success... Safety... or Happiness...He prayed for our UNITY... I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching. Father, I pray that they can be ONE. As you are in me and I am in you, I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that You sent Me.

 

Such Unity comes from knowledge that...Even though we’re different... We do have one thing in common….Our mutual acceptance of and dependence on the grace of God.

 

You see... Unity in spite of diversity is a powerful magnet drawing lost people to God. On the other hand...Disunity drives people away.

 

We must join the Apostle Paul... Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

 

Embracing UNITY doesn’t mean we can believe and behave as we want… UNITY would be impossible under those conditions... But it does mean we understand how important UNITY is and so we constantly guard our attitudes... Doing everything we can to cherish and protect unity.

 

Then finally...God’s church is to be a place of Grace.

Acts 4:33 says... With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much GRACE was upon them all.

 

Grace seasoned their fellowship... It’s an aroma that draws the lost to God’s family.

 

In his book... What’s So Amazing About Grace... Philip Yancey tells the story of an amazing concert that took place in Wembley Stadium in London. Various rock groups had gathered together in celebration of the changes in South Africa after the Apartheid. And for some reason the promoters scheduled an opera singer named Jessye Norman as the closing act. For twelve hours groups like Guns and Roses blasted the crowd through banks of speakers riling up fans already high on booze and dope. The crowd yelled for more curtain calls and the bands obliged… Whipping the people into a frenzy.

 

Finally the time came for Jessye Norman to sing. A single circle of light followed Norman... As this majestic African-American woman strolled onto the stage wearing a flowing colorful South African garment. There was no backup band... No musical instruments... just Jessye.

 

The crowd stirred... Restless... A voice yelled “More Guns and Roses.”

Others took up the cry... The scene became ugly.

Then unaccompanied... Jessye Norman began to sing...

 

Amazing Grace… How Sweet the Sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost… But now am found

Was blind… But now I see!

 

A remarkable thing happened in the Stadium that night. Seventy thousand raucous fans fell silent before the aria of grace. By the time Norman reached the second verse...

 

T’was grace that taught my heart to fear…

And grace my fears relieved…

 

The soprano had the crowd in her hands.

By the time she reached the third verse...

 

’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,

and grace will lead me home,

 

Several thousand fans were on their feet... Singing along...Digging far back in nearly lost memories for words they heard somewhere long ago.

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years…

Bright shining as the sun…

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…

Than when we first begun.

 

Jessye Norman later confessed that she had no idea what power descended on Wembley Stadium that night. I think you and I know. It was the power of thirst for Grace.

 

Indeed... Our world does THIRST for god’s grace... AMEN?

When any group of Christians allow grace to flavor the way they treat each other... The world around them will stop what they are doing and listen... And will sing along... Willwe be that church?

• Will we become someone great in God’s family?

• Will we cultivate genuine Biblical Fellowship?

• Will we be determined to grow spiritually?... To conform more and more to the image of Jesus?

• Will we become a people and person of joy and gladness?

• Will we share His Grace?


If you’re looking to be a great man of God... You must first become His child by... Faith... Repentance... Confession of Jesus.. And be born again of Water and Spirit.

 

As children of God... We must remember that any one of us can become a great man or woman of God...

 

The choice is ours... As we stand and sing together.