Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Resolved: to Hold Fast to the Past - part 3


Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday morning, January 17, 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."

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…”

Beloved, in a society and culture where the new, the different, the unique is esteemed - where styles and tastes change almost as quickly as you can switch the channels with the remote control – a verse like that verse, a verse about continuing steadfastly in something, may seem out of step, if not off the wall. But, listen, my friends – there’s a pattern here – Acts 2, verse 42, a First Century pattern meant for us, as twenty-first century Christians to follow. A pattern that pertains to Christ’s word – the apostles’ doctrine, Christ’s sacrifice – the breaking of the bread, Christ’s people – the fellowship, and, as I trust we will see today, a first century pattern that pertains to Christ’s power and program – the prayers.

Yes, my friends, what we have here is a pattern – a two-thousand-year-old pattern – worth maintaining and enhancing, rather than neglecting and abandoning. To be the New Testament Christians we claim to be, we need this pattern. We need to study it, we need to understand it, and – most of all – we need to imitate it, follow it!

Look again at the test with me, what does it say? And they, these earliest Christian believers, continued steadfastly in – they devoted themselves to – the apostles’ doctrine. They persisted in and held fast to what the Holy Spirit-commissioned apostles taught. Why? Because those were the things Jesus taught!

A friend of mine and I were talking sometime ago about the New Testament. We were sharing our thoughts and insights about various portions of the 27 books, when my friend had this to say, “David, I can handle Jesus had to say – and Peter and James and John – but Paul, he’s another story. I have trouble with what Paul had to say…” Now, listen. You think about that with me for a minute. That’s nearly half of the entire New Testament, my friend. I think he’s missing something here, I think he’s forgetting something. I think he’s overlooking the fact that ultimately Paul’s words are not Paul’s words! No! Ultimately, Paul’s words are Jesus’ words!

Ultimately, authentic Apostolic doctrine is that which comes from Jesus Christ Himself! To put it bluntly, whether he realizes it or not, my friend’s problem with Paul’s words means that – actually – he has a problem with the word of Jesus!

My friend, as good as he is, I don’t want to follow his pattern. No! I want to follow - I urge you to follow – the Apostles’ pattern! Their pattern!

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine”, that’s priority number 1. Then, next in line is New Testament fellowship – that uncommon unity. Having Christ’s people in one’s heart, in one’s head and in one’s hand. That’s a pattern, an example we need to follow today also! Psalm 133 said it so beautifully – so meaningfully – remember? “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters) to dwell together in unity.” In unity!

Then there’s priority number 3, “And they devoted themselves to [they continued steadfastly in] the apostles’ doctrine - Christ’s word, in the fellowship – Christ’s people, and number 3 – they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, Christ’s sacrifice. Oh, my Loved Ones. Oh, for us to know Christ through the breaking of the bread – through that regular time of communing with Him at His table – that’s what happened to Cleopas and his Emmaus Road friend! They recognized Jesus, they knew Him for who He really is! How? Luke 24:35, 1 Corinthians 11:23 and following. They knew Him, and we know and can come to know Him through, the breaking of the bread. Through the weekly observance of the Lord’s supper so as to remember Him! So as to remember Jesus!

“And they continued steadfastly in – they fervently devoted themselves to – the apostles’ doctrine and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread…” And then, finally - priority number 4 for every New Testament Christian – and even New Testament Church… “And they continued steadfastly in, they devoted themselves to – prayer.” Along time ago, someone smarter than I am had this to say about prayer. Listen – prayer – what is it? It is communication between 2 people who love each other! Let me say that one more time and you make not of it. Prayer – what is it? It is communication between 2 people who love each other. Using that simple, and I believe scriptural definition of prayer as a grid, I’d like for us to take a look at four aspects of this loving, 2-way communication.

First of all, go with me, please, to Acts chapter seven, verses 54 through 60.

Acts 7:54-60: “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they
gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed
into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of
God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at
the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their
ears and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and
stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man
named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord
Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice,
“Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell

What did we say prayer is? What is our working definition for it? Prayer is communication between 2 people who love each other! Here’s Stephen - this courageous servant of Christ, who is about to become the first martyr for the cause of Christ - stones are flying towards him, and with the stones, great hatred and malice on she part of these Jewish leaders, and what is he doing? What is he taking part in while this blood-thirsty mob is gnashing against him with its teeth? Do you see, my friends? He is praying. He is communing with the One he loves the most – he is speaking to Jesus, TO Jesus – as if He is right there with him! And, notice – not only is Stephen communicating with Jesus, by way of this marvelous heavenly vision of the glory of God, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand – guess what? Guess what? Jesus, the other participant in this heavenly love affair, is communicating with Stephen! Isn’t that amazing – evening breath-taking?! Set alongside the ugliness of these Jewish leaders’ hatred and vengeance, is the beauty – the matchless beauty – of Christ’s love for His child, and of His child for Him!

And they continued steadfastly in prayer – in the prayers! What do these words mean? They mean that the earliest believers in Christ – through prayer to Him – they enjoyed, and I believe were greatly strengthened and emboldened by this sweet and precious communion with Jesus! Prayer to Jesus – it is an avenue to commune with Jesus!

Secondly, in learning – perhaps for most of us – learning again about this blessed communication between 2 people who love each other; what do we need to realize? What do we need to remember? Mark it down – the second aspect of prayer. That it is not only to Jesus, but perhaps more commonly and more frequently, it is through Jesus. It is through Jesus!

There’s an interesting emphasis regarding the nature and procedure of prayer that Jesus makes known to His disciples in those final hours He spends with them in the upper room. Anybody know what it is? Jot down these verses for some further study later: John 14:12-14, John 15:7 & 16, and then John 16:23-27. Let’s take a look at the first of those clusters of verses, John 14:12-14, and see if we can’t discern this unique emphasis regarding prayer. Jesus - tell us, teach us – regarding the nature and procedure of prayer.
John 14:12-14: “ “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works
that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go
to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father
may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

What is prayer, and how are we to go about it? John 14:12-14. Here are some answers to these questions. What is prayer? It is a way for God and Christ to carry out their will. Through prayer offered to God, through Jesus Christ, God and Christ involve us in the process of carrying out their will. The process of doing the works Jesus did! Furthermore, look at the procedure for all of this! How are we to pray? John 14:13 – Jesus shows us how, doesn’t He? He says, “Whatever you ask – in My name – that I will do…” And, the outcome? To where does all of this lead? Once again, verse 13, the outcome is this… “that the Father may be glorified, in the Son!” Glory to God! Praise to God in and through Jesus Christ is the outcome!

Prayer – communication between 2 people who love each other – it is to Jesus, it is through Jesus. Then, thirdly, did you know this about prayer? 1 John two verse one. Through prayer not only are Christians privileged to communion with Jesus – and to have access to the gracious throne of God. Listen to this - through prayer, and through the study of passage of the scripture like 1 John 2:1 – we come to realize that when we pray, we’re not the only ones doing so! Take a look.
1 John 2:1: “ My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

Beloved, have you ever thought about it like this before? Why does God hear our prayers? Is it because we get all the words right? I don’t know about you, but there are times when the only words I know how to say are, “Lord, help me!” “Lord, please help me!” God doesn’t hear us because we get all the words right! And, He doesn’t hear us because we have DONE everything right. Just look at this verse, “If anybody DOES sin…” No! Take a look here with me, will you, please? Why does God hear our prayers? I love this verse, and it’s companion verses: Romans 8:26-27. Listen, 1 John 2:1. God hears our prayers – mainly – because Jesus Christ, our Righteous Advocate is praying with us and for us!

And they devoted themselves to – they continued steadfastly in – the apostles’ doctrine [that’s Christ’s words], in the fellowship [that’s Christ’s people], in the breaking of bread [that’s Christ’s sacrifice], and – last of all – they continued steadfastly in the prayers. Listen - through prayer – they devoted themselves to, they latched themselves firmly to, the power and the program of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer, what is it? This two-way communication between people who love each other – Jesus and you. Jesus and me. When we examine the nature and procedure of prayer through the lens of the Lord’s prayer – or, as many have called it, the Disciples’ prayer or Model prayer – what do we learn about it? What do we discover?

Matthew 6, verses five through thirteen. Why do we pray? And, how do we pray? Verses 5 and 6, do we pray to be seen of men? Do we pray so as to sort of show off our spiritually? No! Not unless that’s all we want to gain by way of it – the attention of other men! No, we don’t pray as to be seen of men. Nor do we pray using mounds and mounds, and more mounds of empty, meaningless words – as if – by the use of all these words, somehow we will wear God down, so that finally – finally – He will give in and give us what we want!

No! We don’t pray that way, nor do we pray for those self-centered reasons! Rather – can I say simply, and directly – if we’re going to pray in the way that those earliest Christians prayed, listen, we’re gonna pray like Jesus. To Him, through Him, by Him and number 4 – like Him!
Now, here’s the question: How did Jesus pray? With His eyes closed, with His eyes open? With his hands folded and His head bowed? With His head lifted and His hands raised heavenward? Stop!! Listen, my friends, as important as the physical posture of prayer might be [head up, head down – eyes open, eyes closed and so on], listen, what matters far, far more to God is the posture of one’s heart.

Now, let’s ask our question one more time. How did Jesus pray? Matthew 26:39 “Not My will… not My will – but Thine be done!” What was Jesus’ heart posture when He prayed there in Gethsemane?

So, what is to be our mode of praying to God? Matthew 6:9 & 10, so as to line ourselves up with not only the power of God, but more significantly, the program of God – the will of God. With humble hearts and even bowed heads, we pray as Jesus taught us to pray –

“Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name… Thy kingdom come, Thy
will be done on earth [in me], as it is in heaven… For Thine is the kingdom, and
the power and the glory forever. Amen!”

“And they continued steadfastly in – they firmly devoted themselves to – the apostles’ doctrine and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers…”

Let’s close in prayer.

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