Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Resolved: To Hold Fast To The Past - part 2

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday morning, January 10, 2010

Acts 2:36-47:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are
afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread; and in prayers. Then fear came up on every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 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, praising God and having favor
with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were
being saved."

A new year – a time of changing of the calendar, and the way we write our checks. Usually when we come together in the first few days and weeks of the New Year our thoughts are on the bigger and the better, the new, the difference and the improved.

And, as you well know, with that – with all of that emphasis on the new, with all of the attention given to change in the New Year, we might forget that there are some things – some very important things that may be worth holding on to, worth continuing, worth maintaining and enhancing, rather than neglecting and abandoning.

And what are those things? What is it that we should continue to pursue, yes, even as we enter this New Year?

Acts 2. What a crucially important text this is for our understanding of what it means to be a New Testament church and a New Testament Christian. Lots of key verses and key truths that are communicated here. But, in the interest of time we’re going to zero in on one verse – and four items in that verse - as we consider what we DON’T want to leave behind, as we close the door on 2009, and walk forward into 2010.

Acts chapter two, verse 42 – take a look at it again with me, as we seek to know, to understand, and to do what the early Church did. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread; and in prayers.”

Priority number one – we looked at it in detail last Lord’s Day – remember? If we want to be a truly New Testament church then all the diligence and fervency, all the firmness and constancy that we can muster needs to be focused in the direction of the Apostles’ Doctrine. What they taught, as by the Holy Spirit they imparted to them the Apostles’ Doctrine. Teaching and preaching and DOING the Word of God. Some churches in this age - when so many are infatuated with the latest ‘innovations’ and ‘methods’ – are minimizing the Bible’s importance while still wanting to call themselves ‘The Church’. Acts 2:42 – how can they do it?! Acts 2:42, take a look. Regarding the habits and commitments of the early Church, the text simply, yet powerfully declares: “And they devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles’ Doctrine…” There simply is no church, no truly CHRISTIAN church, without the Bible.

Beloved, I know it’s a new year, and I know that with the change of the calendar a lot of folks think it’s time for other things to change. But, listen, for this congregation of Believers in Christ, 2010 is not going to be any different that 2009. By God’s grace – with His help – we will continue steadfastly, resolutely, unwaveringly in the Apostle’s Doctrine. Amen? Amen!
Secondly, new year or no new year, through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us resolve to continue in – to devote ourselves – to the fellowship. To genuine, New Testament fellowship. Think again about what that means… “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and sister in Christ) to dwell together in unity.” Do you remember those precious words of the Psalmist, in Psalm 133? New Testament fellowship, what is it? That oneness of heart, and head and hand produced by the gracious work of God’s spirit. Do you yearn for that? Do you long to experience and participate in that? Let’s make New Testament style fellowship one of our goals for 2010, shall we?

Through spirit directed prayer, through practical deeds of service, and through generous expressions of giving and sharing, this year let’s keep Christ’s people here [our heart], here [our head, or mind], and here [our wallet], shall we? And they continued steadfastly in the fellowship… As we progress through the remaining 355 days of this year, let’s keep that focus as one of our primary goals again this year.
Apostolic Doctrine… genuine Christian fellowship. Those are the first two of these New Testament church priorities. Then, number 3 – priority number 3 we want to hold onto, and even enhance in the New Year – is that precious time with one another and with the Lord Jesus we call… the breaking of bread.

My brothers and sisters, I need to ask you a question right here, right now. Here is the question: what does the Bible mean – what is the Word of God trying to tell us – when it says that the New Testament Church, the very first believers in Jesus, devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread? Does it mean that they devoted themselves to a small wafer and a tiny cup of juice? Does it mean that they busied themselves with the external details of a particular religious ceremony? Does it mean that? Or, does it mean something different? Something higher? Something more significant?

Two passages of Scripture give us some very helpful, and I believe very needed insight into how to answer my questions. Luke chapter 24, and John chapter 6. Before we move too quickly to answer my questions, let’s take a few minutes to examine what these passages teach us regarding the meaning and significance of this third New Testament church priority: the breaking of bread. Luke 24, please find that chapter with me, would you?

Luke 24:13-35
“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called
Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all
these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned,
that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained,
so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation
is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one
whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in
Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these
days?” And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things
concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before
God and all the people. And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him
to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was he
who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day
since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived
at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came
saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And
certain of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the
women had said; but Him they did not see.” Then He said to them, “O foolish
ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought
not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And
beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the
Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And he went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen
indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” And they told about the things that had
happened on the road, and how He was know to them in the breaking of bread.”

I know that was a lengthy passage to read, especially at this point in the sermon. But please notice this interesting account’s connection to our discussion of priority number 3, the breaking of bread. It’s a connection made clear at verses 30 through 35. Look again at it with me, please. Jesus sits at the table with Cleopas and his friend. Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. Then what? Then their eyes are opened and they knew Him… Yes, they know Him, as verse 35 indicates, in the breaking of the bread. Now, while you’re contemplating that, find the sixth chapter of John with me. We won’t read this lengthy passage. But allow me to summarize it for you. John 6, verses 1 through 14, the text records how Jesus performs one of His most famous miracles. He feed the 5,000 with the 5 barley loaves and the 2 small fish; and as verse 14 indicates, the people saw Jesus perform this miracle. When they saw it, they exclaimed, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world…” End of the story? Not quite. Now skip over verses 15 through 21, and pick up the account in verse 22 and following. It’s now day two of Jesus’ ministry to this hungry crowd. And what are these people looking for? What do they really want when they find Jesus on the other side of the sea? Jesus knows their hearts, doesn’t He? He knows our hearts, too, by the way. Yes, Jesus knows their hearts, and He confronts them with that knowledge – verses 26 - 27,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but
because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which
perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of
Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

Now think again about my questions from a moment ago… What does that text in Acts 2 mean when it says that the early Christians continued steadfastly in the breaking of the bread? Does it mean that they were laboring for perishable food, you know, for a small snack made up of unleavened wafers and a tiny cup of juice? Or, does it mean that their hungering and thirsting was for the one who IS the Living Bread, the Bread from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Himself? Once again the words from Acts 2 are, “And they continued steadfastly in [they devoted themselves to]… the breaking of bread.

My Loved Ones, did you know that Judas Iscariot broke bread with Jesus in the Upper Room? Did you know that? And do you realize that this crowd of people who had eaten Jesus’ free bread and fish meal the day before - when they heard Jesus’ words describing Himself as the Bread of Life – many of them, according to verse 66 and following, withdrew and no longer walked with Him?

My Dear Ones, what does the Scripture mean – Acts 2:42 – when it says, “And they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread”? Priority number 3 for the new year, what is it? It is the breaking of the bread. But is that simply a commitment to the externals of a ceremony? Is it a devotion to a tiny wafer and a little sip of juice? Is it a weekly tasting bee? Is it?

Listen one more time to the words of Cleopas and his Emmaus Road friend in Luke 24:35.
“And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in [literally by means of] the breaking of the bread.”

Hear me, my Loved Ones, would you? Hear me well, please… Priority number 3, if we’re to be a truly New Testament church, then our breaking of the bread in not, I repeat, is not to be a devotions – a steadfast continuance in – the externals of a cold, sterile ceremony. Nor is it to be a fervent pursuit of a small Sunday morning snack of wafers and juice! No! Rather, the 1st Century pattern, and our 21st Century priority, is that of complete commitment to the Sinless One we can know in the breaking of the Unleavened Bread. And the Sacrificial One, we can know in the drinking of the Fruit of the Vine!

And they continued steadfastly in the breaking of the bread… My Dear Ones, I love the simplicity, and the power of Jesus’ words of explanation in this regards, don’t you? And with His words I will close: 1 Corinthians 11:23b – 26
“The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when
He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is
broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

Let’s pray.

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